King Backs Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Cellular Service in Maine

Bill aims to close the rural-urban divide

WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, announced today that he will support bipartisan legislation that aims to improve cellular service in Maine. The Advancing Innovation and Reinvigorating Widespread Access to Viable Electromagnetic Spectrum (AIRWAVES) Act will encourage the federal government to continue to free up spectrum for commercial licensed and unlicensed use and leverage the success of spectrum auctions to help close the urban-rural divide.

“Limited cellphone service isn’t just a minor annoyance – it’s a major challenge to communities that hinders entrepreneurship, healthcare priorities, and day-to-day activities,” Senator King said. “It is a vital part of 21st century life, and rural Maine needs stronger coverage in order to create new economic opportunities and improve quality of life. The government should pursue any strategy possible to bridge the urban-rural divide and increase cell phone coverage in underserved areas.”

Spectrum is the invisible network of airwaves over which signals and data travel. Cell phones, Wi-Fi networks, satellites, television, and more all rely on readily available spectrum to operate, but it is a finite resource. The AIRWAVES Act would aim to make more efficient use of spectrum and support underserved rural areas. Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Establish a spectrum pipeline that will provide more capacity for wireless providers to improve existing service and expand to new areas.
  • Require 10 percent of all of the proceeds from spectrum auctions in the bill to go directly to wireless broadband infrastructure buildout in unserved and underserved areas throughout rural communities across the country.

Connectivity in rural regions is a key part of Senator King’s economic agenda to help grow Maine’s rural economy, support innovation and create jobs. Last month, Senator King joined a letter requesting that the Department of Education continue to study strategies to close the homework gap for school-age children lacking broadband access outside of the classroom in order to fully complete the research that Congress required in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Senator King has supported the modernization of federal broadband programs, including the FCC’s E-rate program, which supports school and library internet access. Last August, he hosted a listening tour with FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to discuss the importance of rural broadband for rural education, healthcare, and economic growth. Senators King and Capito also successfully advanced bipartisan federal legislation in 2015 to support innovative strategies to connect rural students to the internet outside of the classroom, and wrote a letter to then-Education Secretary John King in April 2016 urging that he implement the changes.

The AIRWAVES Act was introduced by U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and is also supported by Senators David Perdue (R-Ga.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).