Maine to receive $5.5 million in federal money to expand internet access statewide

Gov. Janet Mills spoke to an audience Thursday at Thomas College of Waterville about announcing that Maine will receive $5.5 million in federal funds to expand reliable, affordable high-speed internet in the state. Maine is the first state to receive the money as part of the Internet for All initiative promoted by President Joe Biden’s administration. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Officials announced Thursday that the state will receive $5.5 million in federal funds to expand affordable and reliable high-speed internet service in Maine, primarily targeting the state’s rural and tribal communities.

Maine is the first state to receive the money as part of the Internet for All initiative promoted by President Joe Biden’s administration. The initiative is part of a bipartisan Infrastructure Act approved last year that allocates $65 billion for broadband infrastructure improvements aimed at giving every American access to high-speed internet service.

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The Maine funding was announced at a rally at Thomas College in Waterville attended by Gov. Janet Mills and Andrew Butcher, chair of the Maine Liaison Authority. Announcing the funding was April McClain Delaney, an official with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

NTIA officials visited Blue Hill in April and announced a grant to the authority that will provide nearly 12,000 homes statewide with Internet service, McClain Delaney said. But McClain Delaney said after the visit that she felt more needed to be done for rural and tribal areas of Maine in particular.

She said, “You don’t have to choose between living where you grew up and love, and the job you want…”. “Thanks to the bipartisan Infrastructure Act, we finally have the resources to do something about it.”

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She said the $5.5 million will go toward rolling out high-speed internet statewide, identifying communities most in need of federal money and how to deliver it. Part of the funds will be used for training in navigating the digital economy.

“Planning grants may not sound all that exciting, but they are actually transformative and they are essential,” said McClain Delaney.

Mills said the funding lays the groundwork for her promise to provide everyone in Maine who wants an internet connection with access to one by the end of 2024.

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The Internet, she said, is “our new river of commerce, connecting Maine people to the world.”

Thursday was announced at Thomas because the college is hosting a two-day conference called the Maine Broadband Summit.

Mills and the Maine legislature created the power last year. Butcher said Thursday that the authority will direct federal funds to its 13 regional broadband partners to begin the process of expanding broadband service.

This story will be updated.

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