Portland Press Herald
The Biden administration rolled out the Affordable Connectivity Program to help low-income people pay for service. The federal government should not stop with this subsidy program when it addresses the affordability component of the digital divide. Internet service providers (ISPs) will get a lot of new customers as the government pays to extend service to areas that have not been worth serving when the companies were stringing the wires, and it would be a shame if the businesses were allowed to use their near-monopolies to drive up prices for everyone else.
Consolidated Communications is building the biggest fiber-optic internet network in Maine and said it plans to offer connections to tens of thousands of homes and businesses by the end of 2022. It is building networks in Portland, Biddeford-Saco, the Augusta area, Rockland, Waterville, Falmouth, and Bangor. The goal is a comprehensive network covering nearly all the customers in the communities Consolidated has targeted.
Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the creation of a new public authority to coordinate investing tens of millions of dollars in federal funding for broadband infrastructure in Maine. Both houses of the Legislature passed L.D. 1484, establishing the Maine Connectivity Authority with a mandate to expand universal high-speed internet access and telecommunications infrastructure across the state.
The Maine Broadband Coalition launched the speed testing initiative Nov 23. In addition to finding out their own upload and download speeds, users will help the coalition identify slow spots around the state where the speeds are not up to snuff.
Mainers are sharing their stories of poor internet access as part of an effort to get the Federal Communications Commission to update its map to more accurately reflect the inadequacy of internet service in many areas of the country, particularly rural areas.
Nearly half of Mainers who responded to a recent survey said their internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic has been less than adequate. Results of the statewide survey by Mission Broadband, a Bangor-based firm, reveal disparities in broadband access and affordability in different areas, a divide that has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. Roughly 47 percent of the more than 2,600 respondents indicated that their internet service has not met their needs since the start of the pandemic.
Starting in January 2020, the ConnectME Authority will impose a 10-cent monthly surcharge on every wired phone line in Maine to help fund broadband expansion projects in the state. The surcharge, approved by the Legislature as part of Maine’s most recent biennial budget, will be used to facilitate broadband expansion projects in the state in 2020 and beyond.
Gov Janet Mills (D-ME) signed the nation’s toughest internet privacy protection bill into law. The new law requires customers to proactively allow internet service providers to use their personal data. It prevents the use, sale or distribution of a customer’s personal information by providers without the express consent of the customer. Other states have internet privacy laws, but they require customers to opt-out of having their personal data used by internet service providers.