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Rural Connectivity a Top Issue in Maine Election
As Election Day draws near, voters in 36 states and three territories are set to choose governors. In Maine, gubernatorial candidates are making rural broadband a key issue. All four candidates agree that the state needs to be involved in some way, and each recently gave the Press Herald a summary of their plan to expand high-quality connectivity to constituents, if elected.
Both Independent candidates, Terry Hayes and Alan Caron have suggested state investment. Hayes would like to earmark $100 million annually for four years to deploy fiber networks and capitalize on public-private partnerships. Caron suggests a statewide network, funded by $100 million in bonding his first term and a second term if he were re-elected, to connect every city and town.
The Republican candidate stresses public-private partnerships with an emphasis on encouraging private companies to invest in rural areas. The candidate, Shawn Moody, believes that using federal and state funds as the carrot for private sector Internet access companies will be enough to bring rural connectivity up to speed.
Janet Mills, running as the Democratic candidate, has a plan that seems consistent with some of the current activity in Maine. She wants to create Broadband Expansion Districts, that will allow rural communities to band together to expand and administer their own broadband connectivity. She goes on to state that those districts would be eligible for grants. Mills also sees a particular need to address coastal areas where national providers see not profit in upgrading services. She wants to look into establishing “broadband regional hubs.”
Mills’s approach appears a little more consistent with the regional efforts in Baileyville and Calais, the Downeast Broadband Utility. The two rural communities joined forces to create their own dark fiber utility when incumbents wouldn’t bring the services they needed. Recently Cumberland County released an RFP for a similar regional approach.
Montana Wants Network Neutrality, Executive Order Makes It So
Chairman Ajit Pai and the Republican FCC Commissioners voted last December to end network neutrality protections, but many local and state elected officials and their many constituents did not support the decision. Suddenly, decision makers began seeking alternative approaches to ensuring an open Internet without fast or slow lanes. This week, Montana took the initiative by using an executive order to bar ISPs from entering into state contracts if those ISPs don't practice network neutrality.
Read the full Montana Executive Order here.
Update: The State of New York is taking similar steps. Read more below.
While 22 states have taken legal action against the Commission to stop the December 14, 2017 repeal, Montana is using state power to protect its 1.043 million citizens rather than wait for the court to decide. On Monday, Governor Steve Bullock signed an executive order while visiting his former high school’s computer science class.
“There has been a lot of talk around the country about how to respond to the recent decision by Federal Communications Commission to repeal net neutrality rules, which keep the Internet free and open. It’s time to actually do something about it. This is a simple step states can take to preserve and protect net neutrality. We can’t wait for folks in Washington DC to come to their senses and reinstate these rules.”
Montana currently contracts with several ISPs, including CenturyLink, AT&T, and Charter; state contracts come to about $50 million. The executive order requires the state’s Department of Administration to develop policies and guidance by March 1st. In order to enter into a new contract with the state for the new fiscal year that starts on July 1st, ISPs must not:
Rural Connectivity Campaign Issue In Virginia
For years we’ve encouraged voters to make improving connectivity a campaign issue in local, state, and federal elections by pursuing answers from candidates. In this year's Virginia Gubernatorial race, it has now become a topic that both candidates are addressing as a key issue. The Roanoke Times Editors, no strangers to the state's struggles with rural Internet access, recently published an editorial to inform voters that broadband is finally getting some long overdue attention.
Surprised And Pleased
The Times has spent significant resources on broadband reporting in recent years, so it’s no surprise that the editors are savvy to the fact that broadband as a campaign issue is a novel development.
The most important news here is that both candidates say they see a state role in extending broadband to rural Virginia. The times really are a-changing: This is the first governor’s race where broadband has been a big enough issue for candidates to issue policy papers on the subject.
During the last legislative session, the Times covered Delegate Kathy Byron’s bad broadband bill closely. Over the past few years, they’ve pointed out the many disadvantages local communities face when folks suffer from poor connectivity. They've also shined a light on why the state’s economy will deteriorate if Virginia does nothing to improve Internet access in rural areas.
In this editorial, the Times briefly lays out a few differences that the candidates have expressed in their proposals. Both candidates want to expand the state’s fledging Virginia Telecommunications Initiative, modeled on Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Broadband Program, which has also recently inspired Ohio legislators.
After 4 Years, TWC Buys Its North Carolina Legislation
Star Tribune Editorializes About Importance of Broadband, Community Ownership Option
An antiquated state law also stands in the way of communities that want to pursue their own version of FiberNet Monticello. With research increasingly demonstrating that high-speed service boosts rural economic development, communities underserved by current providers should not be held back by the unfair 65 percent threshold for popular support the law requires to go forward. A simple majority would suffice.Finally, they corrected noted that broadband has been a total sleeper issue. If the next governor pays as little attention to broadband as current Governor Pawlenty, the state will be in dire straits.