There’s a lot going on regarding high-speed Internet at both the state and national levels involving business, government and the courts.

While it all seems confusing, there is one easy measuring stick for every development.

If it brings high-speed Internet to areas that don’t now have it, it’s a good thing. If it gets in the way of expansion, it’s not.

It’s virtually impossible to overstate the importance of a high-speed Internet connection in today’s economy. Access to broadband lets every small business market products worldwide, and lets every consumer shop for the best values in the country.

Online college courses, electronic document transfers, banking, video conferencing and entertainment are all revolutionized by this technology.

Individuals and business owners who cannot get a broadband connection will be left behind in this economic recovery. That means areas in rural Maine will be closed to the most desirable kind of development unless this changes.

The federal government has responded by funding broadband infrastructure projects, including the Three Ring Binder project in Maine. FairPoint Communications, which runs its own fiber network, has objected, saying the project would just duplicate an existing network the company owns.

The only test that matters is which company would extend service faster to people who don’t have it. FairPoint may have a network, but it can’t guarantee access on it to the Internet service providers who would need it to make the kinds of commitments that will eventually extend service from the backbone to the end-users.

Slowing down the extension of a new fiber network could be good for FairPoint, but it won’t speed up access into areas that don’t now have service.

A state project scheduled to get under way this summer will identify which areas those are. A mapping project conducted by ConnectMe, again with federal backing, will provide detailed information that will be useful to the companies, including FairPoint, that want to sell service in their areas.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what kind of company makes the final connection, as long as every Mainer who wants to can get online.


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