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Communities still need help

Vienna residents voted in October to join five other central Maine towns in the latest coalition seeking to bring high-speed internet to an underserved area of the state.

Internet providers have largely ignored these communities, so they are banding together – in central Maine, Down East and in island communities, among other places – to see what they can do on their own.

They’re doing it in more populated places, too, to make sure they have the access to the affordable, reliable high-speed internet that they need.

Most of them are planning using funding from state grants. But once these towns figure out what they’ve got to do in regard to high-speed internet – so important for residents’ health and way of life, and for businesses’ ability to do business – they’ll need help doing it.

One source of help is the state, which has funded the planning grants through the ConnectME initiative. The program has also funded the next step – infrastructure – but the state needs more money to meet demand in Maine, one of the most rural states and, not coincidentally, one with some of the slowest internet speeds.

The Legislature failed this year to put a bond funding broadband improvements on the November ballot after it was held up by Republicans.

Speaking recently to the Editorial Board, Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, said he wants get the money for broadband improvements through the forecasted budget surplus to avoid another showdown over a bond proposal. Sen. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, has a proposal that would target $15 million toward communities unserved and underserved by high-speed internet.

Maine communities are fighting so hard for the tools they need for a prosperous future. The Legislature should not go home next session without finding a way to help them.

Portland Press Herald