GrowSmart Maine Testifies in Support of LD 1798 to Update Rules for ConnectME Authority

Testimony of Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine in support of LD 1798

February 13, 2018

Senator Woodsome, Representative Berry and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology, my name is Nancy Smith and I am the Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine. We are a statewide non-partisan, non-profit, membership-based organization working to create lasting prosperity without sacrificing the quality of life that defines Maine.

The ConnectME Authority serves an important role in the design and implementation of state investments in broadband across the state.  The updated rules reflect much thought and consideration by the Public Advocate and stakeholders.

Learn more about Maine’s ConnectME Authority to help Mainers access high speed internet: http://www.maine.gov/connectme/

Though we cannot provide technical expertise, GrowSmart Maine is a member of the Maine Broadband Coalition because we consider broadband essential economic and community development infrastructure.  A few points specific to the proposed rules:

  • Page 12 Section A; Priority Infrastructure Projects. This is likely the only place where GrowSmart Maine differs with the Maine Broadband Coalition. With the high level of demand for access to broadband, the balance between the needs of unserved and underserved is a legitimate point of contention. As with other public infrastructure, it makes economic sense to target public investments where relevant density already exists, balanced with regional balance, so that surrounding remote areas would benefit from improved access closer to home.  As an example, providing relative improvement to a service center community surrounded by smaller towns and unorganized territories may be the highest and best use of limited resources.
  • Page 13 B; Eligible Applicants.  Broadening this definition to include regional partnerships and groups of municipalities rewards collaboration and regional approaches. We support this change.
  • Page 17: Planning Grants.  It may be unnecessarily constrictive to embed rules of community planning grants into these rules as community engagement on this issue is evolving fairly quickly.  Within these rules, we particular support the balance of service and need for collaboration in this section: The Authority must ensure that community broadband planning grants are equitably distributed throughout unserved and underserved areas of the state and that the grants encourage collaboration between multiple communities.
  • Page 19; ConnectME FUND. We are pleased to see the provision to accept additional funds for Connect ME purposes.

We at GrowSmart Maine will assist in any way that is helpful.