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  • Writer's pictureWalter Riseman



Walter Riseman

State Representative

District 69 – Harrison, Bridgton and Denmark

Voting “Yes” for Broadband Improvement – Referendum Question One

Despite our best efforts, the devastating effect of COVID 19 is not going away anytime soon. Are we prepared to deal with this on-going crisis? We need to do something now to be ready for an uncertain future. Can Broadband (high speed internet access) be part of a solution?

What exactly has the Covid 19 crisis have to do with Broadband in our region? A lot more than you might think.

There is no doubt that the Covid 19 pandemic has had a significant effect on our region. Virtually no one has been left untouched by its adverse effects. All the major components of our regional economy have been negatively impacted. Areas such as small businesses, jobs, education, healthcare and senior security, all have been notably stressed to the breaking point. We owe a great deal of gratitude to local community leaders, front line responders, and neighbors helping neighbors who have done their best to provide assistance to those in need and have kept our families as healthy and safe as possible. It demonstrates the resilience and caring nature of our communities. Thank you to our heroes.

Can we do better to protect ourselves in the future? The answer is absolutely YES! Many Maine communities, large and small, are already prepared by having access to Broadband. Broadband provides a lifeline – helping ensure people can work, students can attend school and we can keep seniors connected to services. People without access to Broadband are at a disadvantage. More than 85,000 Mainers have no access to high speed internet. Many more have inadequate or no cell phone coverage. We need a plan which focuses on rural Maine, including our region. Small regions such as Bremen, Roque Bluffs and Islesboro have successfully moved forward to develop a rural Broadband infrastructure.

How do we move forward to improve Broadband?

After studying Broadband development in general in Maine, I have learned it is a complex and significant financial commitment for any single town to undertake, but a smart shared investment for a group of towns such as Harrison, Bridgton, and Denmark, the towns in my district. A key factor for success is to develop a public/private partnership to include municipalities, private businesses, providers and government.

We have taken the first steps in developing a workgroup. Each town will soon have a Broadband Advisory Group and develop its own assessment of needs. Next, a regional group will combine the results and develop a specific plan with the help of experts from business, municipalities and citizens to properly address the core needs of the region, costs of financing the investment and determine the ownership structure. Finally, with a plan in place, groups can apply for and receive grants and commitments for investment as the infrastructure plan is implemented.

Why do we need a Broadband bond for $15 million?

Before adjourning in March, the legislature voted overwhelmingly to support the Broadband initiative recognizing the need to provide more capital investment for improving Broadband here in the state. It would be accomplished by issuing a bond of $15 million. Additionally, if approved, the money will be matched with an additional $30 million of investments from other sources. It is the intent that the $45 million be used throughout the state to foster Broadband development. Our region would most likely be in line to receive some of these funds as well as other sources of investment.

Creation of a strong plan will lead to a better internet structure that will:

• Help businesses grow – including small and home businesses.

• Help restart and support Maine’s tourism industry.

• Allow older Mainers to stay in their homes by providing better access to healthcare and Telemed services.

• Provide residential and educational resources for families and students.

VOTE YES on Question One. “Do you favor a $15,000,000 bond issues to invest in high-speed internet infrastructure for unserved and underserved areas, to be used to match up to $30,000,000 in federal, private, local or other funds?”

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