In a rural state, connecting people to commerce can be especially difficult, so the strength of our economy and communities relies on the maintenance of our ports, roads, railways, airports, and rivers. These resources – and others such as broadband, sewers, and utility lines – play a key role in supporting our businesses and facilitating the high standard of living that we in Maine enjoy. As we adjust to the real challenges of global climate change, we will need not just to maintain but to improve our infrastructure in order to protect Maine from seawater incursion on our coasts and islands, increased wear on our transportation networks, and defense against extreme weather events. Our state—and our country— incur a debt when we postpone investments in our transportation and infrastructure systems. Preserving and improving our state’s infrastructure and transportation systems is an essential component of any long term path to economic prosperity, and I am committed to supporting projects that keep Maine moving forward.
Increasing access to high-speed broadband, both fixed and wireless, is also key to ensuring our ability to compete in today’s global economy, and it is critical that we continue to invest in next generation broadband networks to advance innovation in education, health care, agriculture, and opportunities for entrepreneurs in Maine, regardless of where one lives. I have outlined a roadmap to help meet the broadband challenges faced in Maine and across the country, including steps to better connect rural communities and close the digital divide.
- I have continually supported the full, continued funding of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. This program allows states to apply for competitive grants to improve transportation infrastructure.
- I have urged that broadband investments be part of any federal infrastructure package, leading a bipartisan effort to call on the Trump Administration to prioritize broadband deployment as critical infrastructure in order to empower rural America and ensure our global competitiveness.
- I have fought to maintain the Essential Air Service program and the Airport Improvement Program. Together, these programs help to keep commercial aviation at several smaller Maine airports and to upgrade airport infrastructure, providing our rural communities with vital links to transportation and health networks.
- I fought for the inclusion of amendments to the Every Student Succeeds Act to allow rural students better access to the internet outside of the classroom.
- I have called for increased funding and capacity for the Northern Border Regional Commission, an agency dedicated to supporting infrastructure and economic development projects in distressed counties in Maine.
- I cosponsored the BRACE Act, which would allow short-line freight railroads—the only type of freight rails operating in our state—to deduct the costs of upgrading rail beds.
- I have advocated for the greater coordination of federal resources supporting broadband and called for the modernization of federal broadband programs – including the FCC’s E-rate Fund, which supports school and library internet access, the FCC’s Mobility Fund, which supports rural wireless broadband service, federal programs that support telehealth and rural healthcare, and broadband programs at USDA.
- I have advocated for reforms to Rural Utilities Service broadband programs, including changes to eligibility requirements and allowing for grant-loan combination financing.