The importance of high-speed internet connections has been driven home by the coronavirus pandemic, with more Mainers working from home while thousands of students finished out the school year online.
That may be one reason why voters last week backed a $15 million bond to help communities in the state that lack adequate internet service work toward providing broadband connections for residents. The referendum measure was backed by a 3-to-1 margin in Tuesday’s primary.
An advisory committee of 45 state leaders chosen by Gov. Janet Mills to help spur Maine’s economic recovery has said one of the state’s top priorities should be expanding rural broadband service. It has recommended spending an additional $65 million on broadband projects in addition to the $15 million bond.
The bond money, which will help the state leverage up to $30 million in additional private and government grants, will go a long way toward helping communities that have been working on plans to improve their internet access, said Kendra Grindle, community development officer at the Island Institute, which supported the bond issue.
“State funding can be the catalyst for other funds or the last chunk” needed for a project, Grindle said. “It can be difficult and costly, and it will be wonderful to see how far we can push this $15 million.”