AUGUSTA (AP) – Maine ranks No. 1 in the nation in the percentage of households with telephone service, according to a goverment report released this month.

The latest phone subscribership report from the Federal Communications Commission found that 98.3 percent of Maine’s households have phones. The national average was 95.3 percent and New Mexico, at 90.3 percent, had the lowest penetration rate.

Maine has been among the top five states for the past five years, coming in second last year, first in 2001 and second in 2000.

The high level of subscribership in a state that ranks 35th in per capita income is linked to Maine’s efforts to achieve universal service, the Public Utilities Commission said.

Fifteen years ago, the state’s penetration rate was 93.4 percent, the PUC said. Since then, the agency has worked with local exchange companies, social service agencies and community action programs on initiatives such as Lifeline and LinkUp that help low-income households afford basic local service.

“Telephone service is obviously a basic necessity,” said Thomas Welch, PUC chairman. “Maine’s number one rank reflects our successful efforts to keep phone service affordable to all Mainers, and our aggressive outreach efforts to ensure that people who are eligible for federal and state programs to help them pay their telephone bills are aware of those opportunities.”

AP-ES-04-14-03 1457EDT

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