By Nancy Smith, GrowSmart Maine, Executive Director
GrowSmart Maine is a founding member of the Maine Broadband Coalition, which is currently leading the charge to encourage Mainers to vote Yes on One for Better Broadband on July 14th. Particularly at this time, as so many of us are sheltering at home and limiting in-person connections, we are keenly aware of how access to affordable, highspeed internet has become critical to daily life:
- For students to access education, even when they are at home,
- For all of us to access to medical care through telehealth,
- For growing the economy and creating jobs, particularly in rural places.
As a smart growth organization, we know Maine needs to combine affordable access to high speed internet with strategic community planning and rules that encourage new development where it makes the most sense to reduce the risk of sprawl. We want to keep Maine, Maine, while allowing for and even welcoming growth where it is needed most.
GrowSmart Maine is supporting this bond for three reasons. It is:
- Community driven: ConnectMaine funds broadband proposals that come from communities.
- A smart investment: State grants match local and federal, business, philanthropy dollars, tripling the investment.
- Targeted to unserved and underserved areas where the private sector alone cannot meet demand.
Simply having fast internet access doesn’t guarantee a community will thrive, but without it, towns will lose out. To keep residents and invite new ones, towns are well positioned when they offer the quality of life amenities most people are looking for:
- Safe, welcoming neighborhoods
- Interesting things to do
- Access to quality education and healthcare
- Economic opportunity
- A diverse and welcoming community
Strengthening internet access in rural areas makes economic sense, and it also supports climate change adaptation strategies by reducing reliance on getting in our cars for every errand, or as we’re learning now, allowing freedom from a daily commute for many workers and business owners.
People without access to the internet are at a disadvantage. We need to end that divide.
We need to act now.