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At the end of our Policy Matters discussion on the future of broadband, there were more than 10 questions in the queue for panelists Jeff Letourneau of Networkmaine and Susan Corbett of the National Digital Equity Center. Both have agreed to return to answer the questions in a bonus session with Carol Coultas, Press Herald business projects editor.


Original event: Tuesday, March, 23 from 6:30-8 p.m.
Broadband: Everyone needs it, so why don’t we have it?

Just over 20 years ago, Maine was the first state in the nation to wire schools and libraries for broadband internet, and the first to issue laptops to school kids. But now, Maine bumps along the bottom of nearly every ranking of states with high speed internet. How did we lose that momentum and what will it take to get it back?

The past year has underscored how essential broadband is – for the ability to work from home, to learn remotely and to receive health care services. Efforts are underway on the state and federal levels, including a $30 million initiative unveiled recently in Gov. Janet Mills’ budget. But will they be enough?

Join Carol Coultas, Press Herald business projects editor, and J. Craig Anderson, Press Herald business editor, as they moderate an in-depth discussion with Jeff Letourneau, one of the architects of Maine’s early broadband network and now executive director of NetworkMaine, and Susan Corbett, a longtime internet provider in Down East Maine who now heads up the National Digital Equity Center.

Some historical perspective:

1995: The Maine Economic Growth Council’s first report, identifying as a priority state-of-the-art infrastructure, which includes an electronic telecommunications network. Read more

1999-2000: After backlash to then-Gov. Angus King’s proposal to equip every middle school student with a laptop, the state established the Maine Learning Technology Endowment, which led to the Maine Learning Technology Initiative and the distribution of laptops to middle schoolers in 2002. Read more

2000: Wired magazine interviews then-Gov. Angus King who was in Silicon Valley looking to attract tech investment and businesses to Maine. A favorite quip of his at the time: “I like to say that New Sweden, Maine has better internet access than Manhattan.” Read more

2005-2010: Maine starts to marshal resources for broadband expansion, with Gov. John Baldacci setting a goal in his 2005 State of the State address of getting high-speed internet access to 95-98 percent of Maine communities by 2010. The following year the ConnectME Authority is established and begins awarding grants. Here is a summary of early activity, presented in a white paper issued in 2008 by Educause, a nonprofit advocating the use of technology in higher education. (Maine information starts on page 39) Read more

2013: A Tilson Technology study for ConnectME links future highway development with laying foundation for fiber optic broadband Read more

2010: The Pew Charitable Trust publishes a report on the role of states in broadband expansion. At the time, Maine ranked fourth in the nation at meeting broadband goals set forth in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Read more

2011: A Gates Foundation report exploring the potential benefits of research and education networks for public libraries Read more

2014: GWI, Biddeford ISP founded in 1994, raises alarm about Maine falling behind on broadband expansion Read more

2014: Broadband expansion deemed essential to grow Maine’s economy Read more

2017: Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy publishes basics of good state level broadband policy (Maine examples on pages 7, 10, 11, 12 and 14) Read more

2017: Sen. Angus King publishes a roadmap for rural broadband expansion and closing the digital divide Read more

2018: Frustrated by the lack of access to high-speed internet, some Maine communities take it upon themselves to develop their own broadband networks. Read more

2019: National Association of Realtors publishes a white paper on the value of high-speed internet on the real estate industry, and summarizes states’ regulatory strategies. In its introduction, it notes that the FCC’s first report on broadband, released in 1999, identified the two greatest challenges to broadband deployment: the technical challenges of building network access, and the manner in which regulatory regimes can treat different technologies. “At a very high level, these obstacles remain unchanged twenty years later.” Information on Maine begins on page 33. Read more

2020: National Governors Association issues a white paper on strategies to expand affordable broadband. Helpful broadband primer and glossary of terms begins on page 6. Also an appendix listing all federal broadband programs and funding sources. Maine references are on pages 11 and 12. Read more

2020-2021: ConnectME Authority’s 2-year plan for strategic broadband service Read more

2021: Joshua Broder, CEO of Tilson Technology, a Portland company that develops and deploys broadband networks around the country, on how to best combine existing and new federal programs on broadband deployment. Watch his presentation from the Incompass 2021 Policy Summit

2021: The Maine Broadband Coalition maintains a resource library that includes reports, case studies, how-to guides and other materials for expanding broadband in Maine Read more

2021: Regulating broadband. Gigi Sohn, a distinguished fellow at Georgetown Law and counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, shares her perspective on net neutrality and creating a democratic internet Read more

February 2021: Gov. Janet Mills includes $30 million in her budget proposal to expand broadband in Maine Read more

March 2021: For rural Mainers seeking broadband solutions, is Starlink the answer? Read more

March 2021: Maine lagging on road to high-speed broadband. The state’s bid for better access has been stymied by high cost, misleading maps and Maine’s rural nature. Read more

March 2021: Our View: Broadband funding is a new New Deal Read more

March 2021: Maine map gap: Bad federal maps muddle route to better broadband Read more

April 2021: After meeting with Biden, King praises broadband investment plan Read more

April 2021: Bipartisan plan would create Maine agency to expand broadband, with federal dollars Read more

May 2021: Maine proposes huge boost in broadband standards for grants Read more

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