GrowSmart Maine Testifies in Support of LD 1399 “An Act to Encourage Broadband Coverage in Rural Maine”

Testimony of Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine, in support of LD 1399 “An Act to Encourage Broadband Coverage in Rural Maine”
April 26, 2017

Senator Woodsome, Representative Berry and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology, my name is Nancy Smith, I live in Monmouth, and I am the Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine. We are a statewide non-partisan, membership-based organization whose mission is to create lasting prosperity without sacrificing the quality of life that defines Maine. I apologize for being unable to attend today’s hearing.

In our advocacy, we support legislation that improves Maine’s economy, protects its distinctive character, strengthens communities and enhances our state’s quality places. In short, we support long term solutions over short term fixes. We believe this bill makes significant headway in achieving these goals.

As we encourage economic growth that supports the quality of life Maine is revered for, affordable world-class broadband must be part of the plan. This applies to the natural resource sector in which both commodity production and niche marketing requires access to markets and technology, the IT and creative economy for which a growing number of people are choosing to live in Maine, and either bringing their work with them or seeking it once they settle in. Finally, as seen in my hometown, it matters to Maine’s manufacturing sector. With all these sectors, in communities across Maine, broadband improvements are essential to our economic stability and lasting prosperity.

FairPoint upgrades broadband service throughout Hancock County, The Ellsworth American, April 4, 2017

Stakeholders across the state have sought out solutions to bringing broadband to all communities, with some advances made and much more work still to be done. As a member of the Maine Broadband Coalition, we’ve been a part of these discussions all along, and I’ve come to believe that the ConnectME authority can achieve so much more if reconfigured and provided with substantially more funding to do its work.Building an organization modeled after Maine International Trade Association and Maine Technology Institute makes good sense. In my eight years of service on the committee of oversight for both MITC and MTI, I can attest to the value of this structure.

Broadband in Maine: A Compelling Case Study of Its Benefits Read the BDN Blog from April 5, 2017

It is important to note that this bill defines as unserved anyone in a census block area with less than a 25mbps download / 10 mbps upload speed. It defines high speed broadband as service providing at least 50 mbps symmetrical service. To be regionally, nationally, and globally competitive, this are the appropriate standards.

Maine has the backbone of an exceptional broadband network with the Three Ring Binder. This legislation will revamp the ConnectME Authority to maximize the impact of this significant asset, through collaboration of the private sector and all levels of government and sufficient funding to make significant headway.

We respectfully encourage the committee to support this legislation.