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Connectivity for everyone!...What it means

Dear Maine Broadband Coalition (partners, committee members, advocates, practitioners, boosters, connectors, and concerned citizens.)

First of all - Hi again! I’ve missed you. Happy belated Valentines day! I hope you are all staying positive and testing negative.

In last week’s State of the State address, Governor Mills made a bold pledge that everyone who wanted a high-speed internet connection by 2024 would be able to get it. As the words were spoken chills went down my spine and I could feel the shock waves ripple throughout the State. While the role of the Maine Connectivity Authority and Connect Maine will be central to achieving this audacious goal - it is a significant call to action for anyone working towards a future of better connectivity.

So what does it mean and how will we get there?

First: We have to keep investing in community driven solutions and partnerships.

We have to keep fueling the tremendous momentum many of you are making through your community driven efforts. Just as the Maine Connectivity Authority has already allocated $10M to Connect Maine for the spring 2022 Grant round - we will continue to invest in and eventually finance last mile solutions that build from informed, engaged and empowered communities. Your role is more important than ever and as Peggy Schaffer has said time and time again - “everyone has to join hands, and put their shoulders to the wheel.”

Second: We need to reshape Maine’s internet ecosystem

We need to bolster and strengthen Maine’s internet ecosystem through strategic investments in our backbone and middle mile infrastructure. This can have huge impacts in diversifying options, decreasing costs, reducing barriers, and increasing resilience. Smart middle mile investments will link to and leverage last mile connectivity.

Third: One size does not fit all - and all solutions need to be on the table to make sure no one is left in the dark.

This will mean new, strategic partnerships in wireless services and technologies in the places where the time and costs for wired connections will be prohibitive. Every Mainer deserves the ability to connect to world class high-speed internet yet there are far too many who can’t attend school, access remote work opportunities or connect with their health care provider because they lack connectivity. This is unacceptable in 2022. Diversity of technology, proactive investments and partnerships in targeted places ensures that everyone has fundamental access and the ability to get online. If you don’t have a basic connection to the internet and you want one - no one gets left behind.

None of the above are mutually exclusive. We can (and have to) embrace and pursue all of the above in parallel.

We all know the Pandemic has revealed just how vital an internet connection is for all aspects of modern life. Too many Maine families, businesses, students, elders, farmers, foresters, fishers, are stranded and we can’t leave them behind. This will require more options. More partnerships. More creative solutions. The State can’t (and shouldn’t) do this alone. Lack of connectivity is a public problem (in that no - “one” owns the problem.) But we all can help create the solutions.

The Governor’s goal is bold. The MCA’s objectives are expansive - But with hundreds of millions of dollars on the table - can we afford anything less? Fortunately, the Connectivity Authority is already well underway and our Strategy encapsulates the points above.

We won’t change things by doing them the way we’ve always done them. The last year has brought forward an unprecedented amount of federal funding to change the way we address our broadband challenges. This means that we have to think differently, be strategic and act boldly.

We can get there from here!

Andrew Butcher

President - Maine Connectivity Authority

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