February 03, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the Town of Rockport and the City of South Portland successfully launching ultra-fast broadband projects and with other municipalities poised to do the same, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today announced his support for legislation – the Community Broadband Act – that would preserve the rights of cities and localities across the country to follow Maine’s lead in building municipal broadband networks.
“Rockport and South Portland are demonstrating that municipalities play an important role in advancing broadband infrastructure to help provide high-speed Internet at affordable prices to businesses, schools, and homes,” Senator King said. “It’s a model of public-private cooperation that the rest of the country could benefit from, which is why I’m supporting this bill to protect local choice and support the ability of towns and cities across the nation to participate in locally-led broadband efforts.”
Internet access is increasingly a necessity, yet rural and low-income communities continue to face barriers to broadband choice, capacity, and affordability. Currently, twenty states – not including Maine – have provisions in law that restrict of limit public funding for broadband networks.
By promoting and protecting choice and autonomy at the local level, the Community Broadband Act, introduced by Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), would ensure that municipalities across the country would – like Rockport and South Portland – be able to consider municipal broadband networks as affordable, reliable options to help enhance economic development, improve access to education, health care, and other public services.
In effect, the bill would help reinforce that all options should be on the table to improve broadband infrastructure – through public, private, local and state bonds, and federal funding – at a time when three quarters of Americans have only one option for Internet speeds of 25Mbps and higher.
In August, Senator King, along with Susan Crawford – President Obama’s former Special Assistant for Science, Technology, and Innovation – participated in the official launch of Maine’s first municipally-owned, open-access, ultra-fast fiber optic Internet network in Rockport. The “High Tech Harbor” project delivers Internet up to 100 times faster than a regular broadband connection to area homes and businesses. Since then, South Portland has announced that it intends to partner with local and private stakeholders to build a gigabit network.
President Obama made municipal broadband a priority in his State of the Union with plans to bring faster, better broadband to rural America as part of his infrastructure agenda in 2015. Despite annual investments in U.S. networks that have grown by 40 percent from 2009 to 2012, roughly half the country cannot obtain access to even a quarter of the speeds deployed by members of Next Century Cities, which are cities, numbering more than fifty including Rockport and South Portland, that have deployed gigabit broadband.