Farm Bureau Sees Expansion of Rural Broadband Internet


By David Bright, MFB State Director
The last mile may be in sight, but when it comes to bringing broadband Internet service to all of Maine, people in many parts of the state still can’t quite get there from here.
Maine Farm Bureau joined with a number of other groups during the Legislative session and managed to inch towards the goal, but there is still much work to do.
Like most things in Augusta these days, it comes down to money. Of the 35 or so broadband Inter-net bills that were introduced this year, four rose to the top. Farm Bureau’s bill, designed to as-sure that any state efforts expended on internet expansion went to areas where there is currently no access to high-speed internet, was carried over to the next Legislative session in 2016. That gives Farm Bureau and other supporters time this summer and fall to promote the bill.
Three other bills being watched by the Maine Broadband Coalition (of which Aroostook Farm Bureau is a member, representing all of Farm Bureau) made it through the legislative process. One of them, LD 465 An Act To Eliminate the Broadband Sustainability Fee, ends the revenue source for the Broadband Sustain-ability Fund, that ConnectME has used to fund various public and private internet expansion efforts.
This fund, however, was set to expire anyway in 2018. It was based on a usage fee of $2 or $3 per month per mile for every mile of federally subsidized fiber-optic cable used by a provider of internet services. The costs imposed by the fee fall disproportionately on those rural parts of the state because providers in rural are-as need to use more miles of fiber to connect their customers. Eliminating that fee is seen as a positive step in expanding afford-able broadband access in rural Maine.