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July 12, 2016

King Announces Creation of Bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus to Bridge Digital Divide

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) announced today that he is launching a Senate Broadband Caucus. The bipartisan caucus will focus on strengthening broadband infrastructure and deployment across the country. It will also address broadband challenges facing Americans, promote bipartisan discussions about possible solutions to increase connectivity and close the digital divide in rural America, and engage with a broad range of industries and other stakeholders.

“Broadband is no longer a luxury in today’s highly-connected world,” Senator King said. “It’s an essential tool that connects people and communities to economic and educational opportunities in unprecedented ways – and that’s why it’s critical that Congress invests in its expansion as a central part of a thriving 21st century economy. The Senate Broadband Caucus, which I’m proud to launch with my colleagues today, is a recognition that high-speed internet is an integral resource and that everyone across the country, whether you live in rural Maine or anywhere else, deserves access to it.”

The Maine Broadband Coalition, Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Maine Farm Bureau, Telecommunications Association of Maine and FairPoint Communications all welcomed the launch of the caucus today:

“The Maine Broadband Coalition welcomes this effort by Senator King,” said Peggy Schaffer, Co-Chair of the Maine Broadband Coalition. “Today, access to high speed, reliable broadband is the equivalent of bringing electricity to rural America in the 1930’s.  Senator King has been a leader in bringing the broadband conversation forward on a state and national level. We welcome the creation of a Broadband Caucus in the Senate to look comprehensively to make sure citizens across Maine – rural and urban – can have equal and affordable access to this 21st century utility.”

“High-speed broadband is increasingly a necessity for Maine businesses across our state seeking to thrive in the 21st Century economy,” said Dana Connors, President of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. “So we applaud Senator King for co-founding the Senate Broadband Caucus in order to help all Maine businesses access the benefits of broadband.”

“Maine is experiencing explosive growth in its agricultural sector, with an influx of new young farmers who are tech savvy,” said Theresa A. Kelly, Maine Farm Bureau Broadband Committee Chair. “So many of them are deeply frustrated by their lack of access to stable broadband and they see full e-commerce and B2B connectivity as key to getting their products to market.  We are happy to see that Senator King is forming a Senate Broadband Caucus, which will hopefully provide those products that are key to fighting hunger and to building our Maine economy.”

“The Telecommunications Association of Maine (TAM) supports the efforts of Senator King and all of the members of the Senate Broadband Caucus in promoting the advancement of rural Broadband,” said Benjamin Sanborn, Executive Director of TAM. “TAM has found that providing broadband to rural areas, while challenging given the inherent difficulties of serving areas with geographies that are not always conducive to providing service and with population densities that are often quite low, can have a profound impact on the ability of people to explore new educational opportunities, economic opportunities, and opportunities to age in place through the implementation of Telehealth services.  TAM applauds Senator King and his colleagues for recognizing the importance of rural broadband and we look forward to working with the Senate Broadband Caucus to help improve broadband opportunities throughout Maine and all of rural America.”

“The role Congress plays in ensuring that all Americans, but especially those in rural America have access to broadband is critical,” said Mike Reed, Fairpoint Communications Maine President. “FairPoint is pleased that Senator King recognizes the important role Congress plays in establishing policies that promote greater broadband deployment.    The Senate Broadband Caucus is a good first step in providing education to Senate staff on the many economic and public policy challenges to deploying broadband in rural America.”

The economic benefits of broadband infrastructure are clear: for every $5 billion invested in broadband infrastructure, 250,000 jobs are created and with every percentage point increase in new broadband distribution, employment expands by 300,000 jobs. Yet, according to the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) 2016 Broadband Progress Report, one in ten Americans lacks access to broadband. More troubling, in rural America, 39 percent of Americans lack access.

Furthermore, a recent study found that after each megabit per second increase in internet speeds, the unemployment rate dropped, and the rate of bachelor degrees earned and the median household income increased. In rural areas, where broadband serves to bridge geographic barriers, these benefits are particularly important.

Senator King will be joined as a co-chair of the caucus by Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and John Boozman (R-Ark.). The Senators will gather at a launch event at 4:30 p.m. today that can be watched live HERE.


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