Fiber connections bring broadband internet to businesses and households in Down East Maine. Credit: Courtesy of the Downeast Broadband Utility

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High-speed connectivity continues to grow evermore important in today’s digitally dependent world. While this invaluable resource has allowed countless Americans to access remote learning, telehealth and more, those without it have struggled to keep up. Far too often, it has been rural communities that have been left behind when it comes to broadband access, something that we unfortunately know all too well in Washington County, which ranks among the least densely populated counties in the most rural state in the nation.

Thankfully, the combination of federal and state broadband funding, as well as the attentiveness that the Mills administration has paid to the important issue of digital equity, equips Maine with a historic moment to close the digital divide in rural, unserved regions like Washington County.

However, we will need to make the most of our resources if we are going to accomplish the Mills administration’s bold and necessary goal to achieve universal connectivity across Maine in less than two years. To do this, we will need to prioritize funding toward the rural, unserved pockets of Maine that still have no broadband access at all, while also avoiding calls by some to pursue “future proofed” networks.

Advocates have framed future proofing as simply establishing a higher standard of internet infrastructure, but by establishing a grant-awarding standard that views a region with multiple service options the same as a region with no broadband infrastructure at all, we will once again be pushing rural, unserved communities to the back of the line.

Rep. Anne Perry