Updated Broadband Action Plan unveiled

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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - State officials Thursday unveiled an updated plan to address broadband expansion in Maine.

The new Broadband Action Plan is designed to get broadband to as much of the state as possible.

In today's 21st century economy, the haves and have-nots are often decided by who has access to reliable internet.

For much of rural Maine, they're left out of this digital economy.

State officials have an updated plan to fix that.

"This plan builds on the extensive community planning work that has provided a really solid base of support for expanding internet connections in rural Maine," said ConnectMaine Authority Director Peggy Schaffer. "This strategy reflects best practices from around the country."

"We tried to take feedback that we'd heard over the Fall and Winter and really look at more concrete -- so that people could see what communities are ready, what communities are interested, and how they might move forward," said Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development.

It proposes the state pay a quarter of the cost for rural Maine expansion.

The rest will be funded by the private sector, federal dollars, and local municipalities.

"I think what the state's money would be is the start," said Johnson. "You have to be able to have money to incentivize private investment and federal investment. There are match components to federal funding that's available, so the state can be a match to that. And it's also is what triggers private investment as well."

Johnson says expanding broadband is a crucial step to convince people to move to the state.

"Broadband is a key to being able to attract to our workforce,' said Johnson. "To grow our own workforce, people need access to information and research and educational opportunities. And if we want to go out to other states and attract people to Maine, that's just an expectation they have is to be able to connect to the internet."

Now it's up to the legislature whether or not to fund it this session.