In last month’s election, Gov. Janet Mills garnered over 50,000 more votes than she did in 2018 and secured a second term in office.

While there are various factors that contributed to this impressive result for the governor, her administration’s continued attentiveness toward issues impacting our state’s rural communities undoubtedly played a significant role.

Gov. Mills’ pledge to achieve universal broadband connectivity across the state by 2024 is perhaps the clearest example of her dedication to rural Mainers. According to the White House, at least 42,000 Mainers lack access to broadband infrastructure. Federal Communications Commission data shows that the vast majority lives in rural areas (about 96%).

With up to $500 million in federal funding for Maine’s broadband expansion, we are able to make Mills’ pledge for universal connectivity a reality, but we will need practical decision making when it comes to funding allocations. Specifically we must ensure that projects that expand connectivity to unserved communities — which completely lack access to broadband infrastructure — are prioritized.

Some are calling for funding to be given to communities that already have access to multiple networks. While the belief is that this would spark more competition in the broadband marketplace, the reality is that it would once again push unserved rural communities to the back of the line, leaving them without the connectivity that they have been deprived of for far too long.

To bridge Maine’s digital divide once and for all, let’s assist those with the greatest need first: rural unserved Mainers.

James McHugh, Mexico

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