Gov. Janet Mills spoke on the importance of broadband internet in Maine’s economy at the ceremony awarding a $9.87 broadband internet investment to Arrowsic, the Monhegan Plantation, the town of Roque Bluffs and the Biddeford Internet Corporation. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

ARROWSIC — Arrowsic residents won’t have to go to a restaurant or library for a strong enough internet connection to do their homework, contact their doctor or do their job.

On Thursday, Arrowsic, Monhegan Plantation, Roque Bluffs and the Biddeford Internet Corporation, received a $9.87 million investment from the USDA that will create or improve rural e-Connectivity for a total of 4,527 households and 215 businesses in rural Maine.

Arrowsic’s slice of the investment totals $1.2 million, which is split between a loan and a grant. The investment will fund high-speed internet to connect all Arrowsic residents, totaling 237 households, 20 businesses, and four farms.

Town officials said they hope the addition of high-speed internet will not only facilitate local businesses but entice more people to move to or open businesses in the town.

The announcement was lauded by local, state and federal officials.

“This substantial investment in broadband in Maine will help ensure that these rural, coastal, and island communities can connect to the vital internet services that they depend on,” said D.J. LaVoy, the USDA rural development deputy undersecretary. “Upgrading and installing essential broadband infrastructure will improve connectivity for critical first responders and rural businesses. It also will enhance learning opportunities for students, provide access to telehealth services and build prosperity for Maine’s iconic towns.”

“High-speed internet is no longer a luxury; it is an economic necessity,” said Gov. Janet Mills. “This significant federal investment builds on the work done by the state to help connect our small, rural communities to high-speed internet and open new doors of opportunity for their residents. As we work to strengthen and diversify our economy, building out our broadband capacity will play an important role and this funding represents another welcome step forward.”

In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. Applications for the ReConnect program opened in December 2018.

Last month, Sukey Heard, Arrowsic Select Board chairwoman, received a letter from USDA offering a $1.2 million grant and loan combination. The town held a special town meeting last week to vote on the offer. Over 100 Arrowsic residents voted overwhelmingly to accept the offer.

Heard thanked the members of the Three Bridged Islands Broadband Task Force, which was formed in 2017 and worked for nearly three years to bring reliable, affordable broadband service to Arrowsic, Georgetown and Southport. Arrowsic was the only town eligible for the USDA ReConnect program.

“Little towns like Arrowsic depend on volunteers to support and expand our basic services,” said Heard. “High-speed broadband internet is necessary for ongoing municipal services and resources.”

Last month, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the USDA have another $550 million available in ReConnect funding this year. The application window for this round of funding will open today and close on March 16.

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