Bill To Put $15 Million Toward Maine Broadband Expansion Gets Wide Support At Committee Hearing

Jan 29, 2020

Legislation that would appropriate $15 million to the ConnectME Authority for broadband expansion across the state drew broad support Tuesday at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.

Educational organizations, business groups and farmers testified in support of bolstering the ConnectME Authority, which uses its funding to leverage other sources, both public and private, to build broadband capacity where it is needed.

Authority Director Peggy Schaffer said the need is greater than what this bill and another already endorsed by the committee would provide.

“Fifteen million is a start, $8 million ongoing is a help. But it does not really fill the need to make sure the state is 95 percent connected,” she said.

Public Advocate Barry Hobbins also spoke in support of the bill.

“Unfortunately, less households in Maine, as you know, have internet than those in any other state in New England,” he said.

The Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative advocacy group, did not testify in person, but submitted written testimony saying that the state should let the private sector take care of broadband needs and use state funds for fixing roads and bridges and ending waitlists for disability services.

Correction: Maine Heritage Policy Center submitted written testimony, not posted a statement on its website. A previous version of this post also misspelled Director Peggy Schaffer's name.

Originally published 4:36 p.m. Jan. 28, 2020