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August 29, 2017

King Celebrates Launch of Ellsworth Open Access Fiber Optic Network

Outlines Rural Broadband Roadmap to Connect Maine Communities and Close the Digital Divide

ELLSWORTH, ME – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today joined with the city of Ellsworth and Ellsworth Business Development Corporation, Northern Border Regional Commission Co-Chair Mark Scarano, local and state officials, and private sector partners to celebrate the launch of Ellsworth’s Open Access Fiber Optic Network at the Union River Center for Innovation in Ellsworth. The open access fiber network provides high-speed internet to the Union River Center for Innovation, an incubator for startup businesses, and establishes next-generation connectivity for businesses along the fiber network in Ellsworth.

            “Whether it's boatbuilding, manufacturing, or financial services, businesses in Maine rely on high-speed internet connectivity to grow and create jobs in their communities,” Senator King said. “The public-private partnership we saw here in Ellsworth today oils the wheels of economic progress. This new open access fiber network is a link to the region that will increase business opportunities and access to employment and it’s something that I hope can be repeated in towns and cities across Maine.”

King also released a proposal for next steps to help meet broadband challenges in Maine including strategies to connect rural communities and close the digital divide. King issued these strategies in a white paper summarized below and in full HERE:

- Modernizing Federal Programs that Support Broadband:

Building on the successful modernization of programs at the FCC, such as the federal E-rate program, and programs at the USDA, the federal government must ensure broadband resources are modernized and adequate in order to support the connectivity rural America needs to prosper. In doing so, we need to ensure better and more accurate broadband data collection, and coordinate broadband support across federal agencies and in partnership with local, state, and private resources. To that effect, I have co-sponsored the Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunity Program Act, bipartisan legislation that will modernize USDA Rural Utilities Service programs and help rural America access grant and loan funding. Over the next several months, I will work to identify proposals and legislation that will modernize federal broadband resources, enable better data collection and federal agency coordination, and incentivize public-private partnerships that support broadband deployment and the many critical services that depend on next generation broadband.

 - Broadband: A Priority in Federal Infrastructure Investment:   

From large companies to small businesses on Main Street, to farms in rural Maine, to rural health and education providers, individuals and families, broadband access is not a luxury. It is a necessity equal to roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure. Access to the internet expands economic and social opportunities for commerce and strengthens our economy and rural communities. Earlier this year, I led an effort with 47 of my bipartisan colleagues urging the Administration to include broadband in any infrastructure package. I will continue to work with my colleagues to make sure support for broadband deployment is part of any major investment in our nation’s infrastructure.

- Removing Obstacles and Reducing Costs to Broadband Deployment:

In order to help lower the cost of deployment of advanced broadband networks in rural America, the federal government needs to remove obstacles for states and local communities that want to streamline broadband deployment regulations, including pole attachment and wireless siting rules. The federal government should foster a cost and time efficient regulatory environment that helps spur broadband deployment and incentivizes increased private investment in broadband networks. In the months ahead, I will work to identify strategies and legislation that will help the federal government remove these barriers, encourage states to adopt model pole attachment policies, and improve deployment in rural America.

 - Improving Digital Equity and Closing the Rural Divide:

Broadband, both fixed and wireless, needs to be accessible and affordable to all Mainers regardless of where they live, study or work. Given that one-third of low-income householders with school-age children lack adequate high-speed internet, I successfully advanced bipartisan federal legislation through the reauthorization of the Every Student Succeeds Act to support innovative strategies to connect rural students to the internet outside of the classroom.  I will continue to work to close the homework gap and provide rural communities the tools they need to succeed in today’s economy. We must ensure that all students, regardless of where they live or their families' income, can stay current with their schoolwork and graduate with digital skills.

Senator King has been a strong proponent of broadband infrastructure initiatives to support innovation and economic development in rural communities in Maine. He is a co-founder of the Senate Broadband Caucus, a bipartisan caucus working group developing solutions and strategies to accelerate broadband deployment in order to strengthen he digital economy and to close the digital divide, especially in rural America. Increasing access to rural broadband is also an integral part of Senator King’s economic agenda to help grow Maine’s rural economy and create jobs.

In the evening, Senator King will provide keynote remarks at Acadia Family Center’s Speaker Series on the drug epidemic in Maine. During the talk entitled, “Addiction and Mental Health, Opportunities, Solutions, Hope,” Senator King will discuss his work in Washington to combat the opioid crisis in Maine and discuss strategies and solutions to combat it on the ground in Maine communities.


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