In Washington County and throughout Maine, we are faced with notable challenges and great potential. The beauty of our state — from its rocky shoreline to its woods, lakes and streams — places us in a unique position to retain generations of Maine families looking to call our state home. Our shores and hilltops — our special corner of the country — are also welcoming and yearning for newcomers who want to raise families and further strengthen our vibrant communities.
But the lack of high-speed internet access is a barrier to folks looking to start a business in rural Maine or work from home for larger companies in other parts of the country. And in a 21st-century economy, it’s not just startups and remote workers who need comprehensive broadband infrastructure. It also allows Maine farmers to practice precision agriculture and Maine’s traditional fishing and timber industries access new markets.
In short, we need broadband for a strong economy.
[Opinion: Maine communities are closing the digital divide to join the global economy]
That’s why we Mainers are fortunate to have a thoughtful, dedicated leader in U.S. Sen. Angus King, who has devoted much of his first term in the U.S. Senate working to strengthen connectivity and expand broadband in our state. He has not only championed this critical issue in our nation’s capital, but he has worked closely with rural communities throughout Maine — from Sanford to Cherryfield — to help close the digital learning gap for students without home internet access and encourage investment and entrepreneurialism in rural Maine.
King has always had a knack for technology and has worked continuously to support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning and the innovation economy. Who could forget his time as governor, when he launched the Maine Learning Technology Initiative to provide all seventh- and eighth-grade students in Maine with laptops and improve digital literacy for Maine children?
And while Washington seems more divided than ever, King has pressed on with his vision for Maine’s technological future — finding bipartisan support for ideas like a Senate Broadband Caucus he co-chairs with Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from West Virginia. He is a strong advocate for investing in broadband for education, for health care service and to grow the workforce.
I encourage Mainers to research his accomplishments, for example, on securing funding for telehealth initiatives and championing amendments in a 2015 education reform bill to expand internet access for rural students. King has been there for Maine time and again.
[Opinion: Our growing economy should not leave rural America behind]
As the founder of a Machias-based telecommunications company, I am acutely aware of the need for rural broadband deployment. It helps connect people in Maine to their friends, families and neighbors, as well as to information and the world. Having a partner like King in the Senate helps those of us in the Sunrise County — and throughout Maine — look toward a bright future for our state.
I’ve known King for many years, and there is no bigger champion for rural broadband. King and I have spoken on many occasions about the need to reach the homes in Maine with no internet connectivity (no home should be left behind). We have talked about the need to increase the capacity of existing broadband networks to meet the increasing demand of evolving technology. And we have discussed the need to bridge the digital divide and the importance of digital inclusion — affordable broadband, affordable equipment, digital literacy training and public computer access.
King believes in Maine, and I believe in him. That’s why I’m supporting him again in November. I hope you’ll join me.
Susan Corbett is CEO of Axiom Technologies, a Machias-based internet service provider.
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