A major broadband investment is on its way for state of Maine

15 years ago

By U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud

    Our ability to grow our economy depends in large part on the quality of our infrastructure. But it’s not just roads, bridges and transportation systems that require modernization. It’s also the infrastructure that gives us the ability to communicate with each other and the rest of the world.
    While high speed internet is a reality for many, it is still out of reach for thousands of Mainers and small businesses. And it’s hard for our rural businesses to compete without adequate access to broadband.
    But on December 17th, a major announcement was made at the University of Maine in Orono that could change this. Gary Locke, the Secretary for the U.S. Department of Commerce, flew to Maine to announce that a $25.4 million Recovery Act investment was going to be made to increase the availability of broadband to some of the most rural parts of our state.
    The initiative, called the Three Ring Binder project, proposes to create an open access fiber-optic network extending to the most rural and disadvantaged areas of Maine, linking the unserved and underserved areas of the state together with a modern communications network. By laying three massive “rings” of fiber, it will help connect the Saint John Valley in the north, the rocky coastline of Downeast Maine and the mountainous regions of Western Maine. Doing this will require the construction of a 1,100-mile network that will pass through more than 100 communities containing more than 110,000 households, 600 community anchor institutions, and a number of last mile service providers.
    As envisioned, this project has the potential to finally bridge the divide between the rural and urban parts of our state. And the economic benefits are great. Nationally, it is estimated that for every one percentage point increase in broadband penetration in a state, employment is projected to increase by 0.2 to 0.3 percent per year.
    For our economy in Maine, this project is really a game changer. This investment will help businesses in rural Maine compete and create jobs. It will also immediately create the construction jobs that are needed to lay the high capacity cable, while providing economic ripple effects that will benefit communities throughout our state.
    The road to recovery may be a long one, but as a country we must move forward. We must fight to preserve the jobs that we have while we seek out new opportunities to put Mainers to work.
    The benefits of the Three Ring Binder project will provide a boost to economic activity throughout Maine, while building the long term infrastructure we need to grow our state’s economy. I was proud to support this project and I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation to those that made it a reality. It will help connect our families, towns, businesses, and link our university campuses. And it will help ensure that we are no longer held back by the limited technology available to us.