Pingree Backs Bipartisan Bill to Increase Federal Investment in Rural Broadband
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) has cosponsored a bipartisan, bicameral bill to offer rural communities more federal investment to improve broadband Internet access and boost their economies.
“Maine ranks 49th out of 50 states when it comes to broadband access. Across the state, Internet speeds are well below the national average. In today’s economy, where so much relies on technology, that’s a serious handicap for our state,” Congresswoman Pingree said. “I’m proud to support this legislation to help our rural communities access the technology they need to succeed in the 21st Century.”
The Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program (B-CROP) Act would make grants available to rural areas, funding between 50 and 75 percent of a broadband project’s cost. Grants would be combined with loans administered by the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service—the bill increases authorized funding for the agency’s loan programs to $50 million annually. A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate.
“In many areas, especially rural Maine, broadband is essential for communities to survive and thrive. Whether it’s telemedicine, access to markets for small businesses, education for our children and adults, or just a chance to stay connected with family, quality high-speed broadband is an essential utility,” said Peggy Schaffer of the Maine Broadband Coalition. “We are thrilled that Congresswoman Pingree recognizes this and has joined in this bipartisan effort to make sure rural Maine is not left behind.”
“Broadband infrastructure is critical to the economic future of Maine’s coastal communities. Having workable, high-quality Internet is essential for local businesses and will help attract young families,” said Stephenie MacLagan, community broadband expert at the Island Institute in Rockland. “This legislation helps focus much deserved attention on the expansion of broadband in rural areas. 21st Century high-speed internet is needed to serve all Maine communities well into the future.”
Maine Broadband Statistics
- A recent study by technology site Gizmodo found that Maine ranked ahead of only one state—Montana—for broadband speed and availability.
- The same study found that the majority of Maine counties offer top download speeds of 7.3 to 10.9 megabits per second (mpbs) compared to the national average of 18.2 mpbs. York, Cumberland, and Lincoln performed better—with speeds of 10.9 to 14.6 mpbs—but were still well under average.
- Broadband speeds in Boston range from 21.8 to 25.5 mpbs.
Pingree working to make Maine more competitive for federal broadband investments
A member of the House Rural Broadband Caucus, Pingree is working in several ways to grow federal broadband investments and make them more accessible to Maine.
These efforts have included:
- Meeting with the Maine Broadband Coalition to gather input from stakeholders last April;
- Writing to President Trump asking him to include broadband in his infrastructure plan;
- Cosponsoring the New Deal Rural Broadband Act, legislation that takes comprehensive steps to improve rural broadband access; and
- Asking the USDA to update an outdated definition of high-speed Internet that keeps many Maine communities from receiving funds.