October 27, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King, co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, today announced the U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) has awarded Pioneer Broadband in Houlton $5,543,142 to expand affordable, high-speed, reliable broadband connections to over 1,600 households across rural Northern Maine. The investment in connectivity will make a massive difference for families, small businesses, and communities across the region. Senator King has long supported expansion of rural broadband, and pushed the FCC to make reforms to the RDOF to ensure Maine’s rural areas are a top priority for investments.
“An affordable, high-speed internet connection is absolutely vital to success in the 21st century – and with this important investment from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, Pioneer Broadband will now be able to provide much-needed connectivity to 1,600 rural Maine households,” said Senator King. “By helping to bridge the digital divide and providing reliable broadband connections across rural communities, we can create enormous opportunity for families, small businesses, and entire local economies. I’m grateful for all the hard work Pioneer Broadband has done to improve connectivity across our state, and I look forward to seeing the impacts of this funding in Northern Maine.”
"The FCC Auction support won by Pioneer Broadband will be used to bring gigabit Internet to more than 1,600 of Maine's most rural households,” said Tim McAfee, CEO of Pioneer Broadband. “We look forward to leveraging our existing network and in-house resources to efficiently deliver the fiber to the home network we have proposed to the FCC."
“This grant is good news for consumers waiting far too long for broadband in parts of the country that have yet to be served,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Broadband is an essential service and during the pandemic we’ve seen just how critical it is for families, schools, hospitals, and businesses to have affordable internet access. Thanks to the hard work of our dedicated FCC staff who are carefully reviewing applications and working to clean up the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, this program will build new broadband infrastructure in areas that truly need it.”
The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is one of the FCC’s key tools in their efforts bridge the digital divide – having now provided over $1 billion in funding to winning bidders for new broadband infrastructure. In 2019, the Commission established the multi-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to bring high speed fixed broadband service to rural homes and small businesses that lack it, and in 2020, after advocacy from Senator King, the Commission took steps to ensure funding is allocated to unserved, rural communities that lack high-speed broadband. The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will ensure that networks are “future proof” and prioritize higher network speeds and lower latency, so that those benefitting from these networks will be able to use tomorrow’s Internet applications as well as today’s.
Pioneer Broadband is a leader in Northern Maine's High Speed Internet Service industry. Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Houlton, Maine, Pioneer delivers residential and business connectivity throughout Northern and Eastern Maine. Pioneer Broadband now has fiber to practically all homes in Houlton, most homes in Hodgdon, and a few homes in various other towns across Aroostook County. With this investment, they will be able to significantly increase their broadband footprint in rural Northern Maine.
As co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus, Senator King has been a strong advocate for expanding affordable broadband access as a way to increase economic opportunity in rural Maine – and has raised the issue consistently during the coronavirus pandemic – securing $10 billion in funding for broadband in the American Rescue Plan, as well as more than $7 billion to close the digital divide for students nationwide. The March edition of Senator King’s “Inside Maine” podcast focused on this historic investment during a conversation with Tilson Technologies’ Josh Broder, and Pew Charitable Trusts’ Kathryn de Wit. Senator King has also urged the Biden Administration to update federal standards for high-speed broadband to reflect modern uses, calling for updating the definition of high-speed broadband to 100 megabits per second of upload and download speed.
Senator King also worked to secure broadband funds in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which is being considered in the House and will invest $65 billion in broadband infrastructure across the nation. The legislation’s historic broadband provisions include over $40 billion in block grants to states and $2 billion for tribal governments, mirroring the bipartisan BRIDGE Act introduced by Senators King, Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) earlier this year. The IIJA also includes Senator King’s Digital Equity Act, investing $2.75 billion in an array of projects at the state and local level that promote “digital equity.”