PORTLAND, Maine — A group of businesses, nonprofits and policymakers supporting broadband expansion have formed the Maine Broadband Coalition to research and lobby in favor of bills supporting increasing Internet speeds in Maine.
The group includes a number of organizations, companies and state officials who have previously advocated for expanding high-speed broadband and fiber-optic networks in Maine. Supporters include the Maine Office of the Public Advocate, Coastal Enterprises Inc., the t own of Islesboro, the town of Rockport, the Washington County Fiber Initiative and GrowSmart Maine.
Carla Dickstein, a senior vice president for research and policy development at Coastal Enterprises Inc., said in a news release Monday that the group “has come together very quickly” and is recruiting other supporters in a variety of business and nonprofit sectors.
Dickstein said the group has been organizing for several months in advance of the legislative session that includes about 35 bills dealing with broadband expansion in the state.
According to a website the group registered last month and launched recently at mainebroadbandcoalition.org, the coalition does not plan to raise money and does not charge dues to members.
“The only purpose of the MBC is to assemble cogent, fact-based information to help public policy makers and Maine citizens make the best choices about building a robust and productive information technology infrastructure — decisions we are all facing right now,” the website states.
The group’s website on Monday identified one legislative bill, LD 1063, which would require cellphone companies to pay into a state fund managed by the ConnectME Authority to expand high-speed Internet in the state and would make changes to the structure of that state agency.
That bill was introduced by Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon of Freeport with co-sponsors including Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Andre Cushing and Senate Democratic Minority Leader Justin Alfond.
The newly formed coalition argues that expanding broadband in the state is a requirement for improving the state’s economy.