Ensuring more Mainers have high-speed internet connectivity has been a primary goal of our state’s over the last few years and for good reason – connectivity has become nothing short of a necessity in the digital age. However, a key tool in our efforts, the Affordable Connectivity Program, is at risk of running out of funding within the next year if Congress does not take urgent action. If this tool is allowed to expire, it will threaten the connectivity of the over 20 million American households enrolled in the program, including about 90,000 in Maine, as well as our broader rural broadband efforts.

The Affordable Connectivity Program has proven to be essential in our effort to close the digital divide. The program has allowed countless Americans to unlock the life-changing benefits that broadband offers, like remote learning, telehealth and employment services. It has also proven especially effective in rural communities, surpassing initial projections for enrollment rate.

Outside of its direct impact on getting more rural households online, the Affordable Connectivity Program also has a crucial complementary role for our broadband infrastructure expansion efforts. By increasing likely connections, the Affordable Connectivity Program drastically reduces the subsidy needed to incentivize providers through the upcoming Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program.

Allowing the Affordable Connectivity Program to expire will significantly undermine our efforts on rural broadband. As one of the most rural states in the nation, Maine will be particularly benefited by a continuation of the Affordable Connectivity Program. Our leaders in Congress should make funding this program a priority.

Don Marean

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