Scarce Broadband Access Hurting Maine Economy, Federal Investment Needed
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree held a roundtable today in Rockland to discuss how federal funding opportunities could help improve Maine’s economy by helping address its lack of broadband Internet access.
“I think most people would be surprised to know just how far Maine lags behind the rest of the nation for broadband speed and availability: 49th out of 50. This is more than just an inconvenience for users—it’s a serious handicap for our state’s economy,” said Pingree. “If Maine’s high-tech industries are going to compete with other states, we need to drastically upgrade our broadband infrastructure. Today’s event was a great chance to get feedback on the issue from stakeholders—especially on how it affects rural communities—and talk about some of the things I’m doing in Washington to help Maine access federal broadband investments.”
The roundtable was attended by members of the Maine Broadband Coalition, a group of public policy professionals, educational institutions, businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals whose mission is helping the state make the best choices about building a robust and productive information technology infrastructure.
Bri Warner, Director of Economic Development at the Island Institute, a coalition member, spoke about the economic potential of improving broadband speeds and access.
“Many island and remote coastal businesses are unable to expand their customer base or even access online credit card processing because of the slow Internet infrastructure,” Warner said. “Improved broadband infrastructure would provide opportunities for jobs in communities where limited career options are available and allow for residents to seek remote employment. It also would allow people access to remote adult education opportunities and career development trainings.”
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 include:
- 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.