Federal grant expected to help rural Mainers connect to the internet

Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 5:56 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 4, 2022 at 6:00 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - From students to seniors, a major federal grant is expected to help thousands of Mainers connect to the internet.

Gov. Janet Mills was in Blue Hill on Monday with national representatives to speak to residents about what this means for the future.

Maine has received a $28 million grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration that would supply 11,000 households in the state, including 4,000 of those right here in Blue Hill.

“We’ve been talking about this for years. We would always say, my community, needs high speed internet, there’s nothing really more important to education to health care to keeping connected with seniors to business and the economy to help develop and make our economy more robust,” said Mills.

The federal funding is part of the NTIA’s Broadband Infrastructure Program. Getting reliable, highspeed internet access to rural Maine has been a bipartisan effort and a goal for Mills who has pledged to get every Mainer connected by 2024. A big benefit of this federal grant is how it will support students in and outside of the classroom.

“When you have a snow day, you may not have to skip school anymore, right? Think about it. You got connectivity. You can keep studying. You can keep learning you can stay connected with your fellow students and your teachers and your school,” said Mills.

Maine has the oldest population in the country and many seniors have struggled with connectivity during the pandemic.

“It’s important to remember that seniors feel really left out by the current world. And so giving them not only a connection, but the skills to use it as a way for them to feel more involved in what’s going on and their families and their jobs and in the world around them,” said Andy Burke, special representative for broadband.

Some communities are saying they’ve even seen people who once left because of no internet now coming back.

“It’s very exciting. I’m from Maine, I care deeply about the people in the state of Maine, and just hearing the change. You’ve heard for so many years about people leaving Maine and the exodus of young people and to hear they’re coming back and that we can deliver the platform that will enable that is really exciting,” said Sarah Davis, senior director of Government Affairs.

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