To: Senators Susan Collins + Angus King
Representatives Chellie Pingree + Jared Golden
Thank you all for your individual and collective efforts to secure broadband funding into infrastructure and spending measures.
While we know there are numerous challenges and considerations we hope that you maintain a few core principles in your advocacy for high speed internet infrastructure.
First, If there were purely market based solutions in rural areas we wouldn’t have a pervasive and crippling digital divide. Public funding for broadband is the only way to ensure no one is left behind. While the opportunity for public private partnerships are significant and should be explored wherever possible, make no mistake our federal funding should bolster community driven processes.
Second, our data needs to be liberated. We all know the FCC data is insufficient and there are numerous ways to improve, augment, enhance and diversify. Using maps that rely on self-reporting by providers only is a recipe for inaccuracies. Good policy is evidence driven. Evidence requires reliable data. We can do better. The current NTIA digital equity map and Maine Broadband Coalition speedtesting serve as ideal models of how some data sets can join together to paint a more complete picture of patterns, service and needs.
Third, the concept of overbuilding is a misnomer. Competition is key to improving consumer choice, affordability and service reliability. The more broadband becomes foundational critical infrastructure - the more essential it will be to have redundant networks and alternative options everywhere - not just in the places that can afford it.
Fourth, setting the bar for speed and performance at 25/3 mbps for any standard is too low and keeps Maine in the 1990’s - preventing businesses, entrepreneurs, students, researchers, scientists, farmers, foresters, fishermen, grandparents - communities - from achieving their full potential. We should not be held hostage to the false premise of “good enough” internet service.
Lastly - we need you to remember how Maine is different. When rules are crafted at the federal level they often are unaware or ignore the conditions of Maine. This means that Maine gets less than its fair share because the rules are written for large western states. Two examples of this:
USDA allocates its funds partly based on the farms in its database. Since its database only has large farms, most Maine farms are not in its database. Therefore, Maine has received little-no USDA broadband funding.
The NTIA, ARPA, and other funding is organized by counties, towns, and the state. Regional / cross-county, multi municipal solutions are needed. The ability to deploy capital regionally is critical.
The Maine Broadband Coalition is a statewide network of over 2500 stakeholders working to advance the policy, resources, and infrastructure necessary to enable affordable, reliable, and universal access to high-speed internet for all. We are guided by an over 30-member Advisory Committee representing a range of geographies, industries, sectors, and issues including Internet Service Providers, community-based organizations, non-profits, governmental agencies, and private technology companies.
As your partner in policy and programming for broadband in Maine - we hope that these principles serve as useful guidance as specific policies are evaluated for upcoming infrastructure rulemaking and allocations.