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November 30, 2016

King Joins Federal, Local Leaders to Discuss Broadband Expansion and Priorities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today joined federal and local leaders to discuss efforts to expand broadband access, digitally connect communities nationwide, and spearhead key broadband infrastructure policy goals in the coming years.

Senator King, a founding co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, delivered the keynote address at Transforming Communities: Broadband Goals for 2017 and Beyond, an event hosted at Google by Next Century Cities, the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, and US Ignite that showcased bipartisan broadband champions from the Senate, the Executive Branch, mayors, heads of community anchor institutions, and policy experts.

“As we think about how we can equip ourselves with the tools to build a successful future, it’s clear that one of our top priorities must be working to expand next-generation broadband and connecting more Americans to 21st century infrastructure – and that effort must be spearheaded across all levels of government,” Senator King said. “High-speed broadband will enable people across the country, regardless of whether they live in rural Maine or New York City, to realize unprecedented economic, educational, and cultural opportunities. That’s why today’s event, which brought together a bipartisan coalition of voices to champion how broadband can transform our communities, is so vitally important.”

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.

As a strong proponent of expanding broadband in Maine and across rural America, Senator King has worked repeatedly in the Senate to support investment in broadband infrastructure and to modernize federal programs and regulations in order to promote access to high-speed internet. In July, he and twenty-seven colleagues wrote a letter to the FCC Chairman urging the Commission to close the rural mobile broadband gap. He supported the FCC’s successful effort to modernize the E-Rate Program that helps provide internet access at schools and libraries, joined a successful bipartisan effort to call on the FCC to support rural carriers that provide broadband-only services, and is a cosponsor of Senator Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) Community Broadband Act, which would preserve the rights of cities and localities across the country to follow Maine’s lead in building municipal broadband networks.

In July, Senator King joined with a bipartisan coalition of his colleagues to found the Senate Broadband Caucus, which is focused on strengthening broadband infrastructure and deployment across the country. The caucus will address broadband challenges facing Americans, promote bipartisan discussions about possible solutions to increase connectivity and close the digital divide, especially in rural America, and engage with a broad range of industries and other stakeholders.

Next Century Cities is a non-profit membership organization of 149 communities – including Rockport, South Portland, Sanford, Scarborough, Lewiston and Islesboro – founded to support communities and their elected leaders, including mayors and other officials, as they seek to ensure that all have access to fast, affordable, and reliable internet. The SHLB Coalition is an organization of 69 anchor institutions, commercial companies and non-profit broadband providers, foundations, and public interest groups – including Axiom Technologies of Machias and the ConnectME Authority – that work together to develop and support policies to improve broadband connectivity for anchor institutions and their communities. US Ignite is a non-profit organization that fosters the creation of next-generation internet applications that improve healthcare, education, energy, public safety, transportation, and manufacturing.


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