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Politics

Collins, King Tout ‘Historic’ Broadband Funding In Infrastructure Deal

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Murray Carpenter
/
Maine Public
Senator Susan Collins speaks at the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park during Interior Secretary Deb Haaland's first visit to Maine and a national park as Secretary. Collins noted the strong bipartisan support for the Outdoors Act.

Maine's U.S. Senators are promoting an historic investment in high-speed internet in the nearly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill currently making its way through Congress.

The $65 billion broadband initiative includes block grants for states and tribal governments and is designed to increase high-speed internet access to Americans that don't have it, increase speeds for those who do, while also making the service more affordable.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins touted the provision during a recent press conference about the infrastructure bill.

"One of the lessons of the pandemic is that we must extend broadband throughout this country to rural America, that last mile, to urban areas, that middle mile," she said.

Collins was involved in the negotiations of the infrastructure bill with Democratic senators and the White House.

While the Biden Administration had originally hoped for a $100 billion broadband package, independent U.S. Sen. Angus King said in a statement that the proposal is still significant and largely resembles the BRIDGE Act proposal he co-sponsored earlier this year.

"The bipartisan legislation includes $65 billion to support broadband deployment and help extend the internet’s opportunities to every corner of our country, so Americans of all backgrounds can fully participate in work, connect to remote and in-school learning, and access healthcare regardless where they live," King said.

It's not yet clear exactly how much Maine will receive from the initiative, but it will add to the pile of federal broadband funds allocated through Biden's American Rescue Plan and pandemic relief bill from last year.

The influx of those funds prompted Democratic Gov. Janet Mills to back a bipartisan bill that created a new broadband authority to tackle the work of expanding high-speed internet access in Maine.