The ConnectME Authority is pleased to announce the release of Developing Broadband in Maine: Baseline Update 2013, a new study on Maine broadband availability and adoption. Developed in collaboration with James W. Sewall Company, the study updates the baseline findings of the 2011 Broadband Needs Assessment, identifies factors driving recent broadband growth, and provides recommendations for use in strengthening the Authority’s broadband strategies as outlined in the 2012 Broadband Strategic Plan. The study is part of the Authority’s federally funded five-year Broadband Planning Project.
Based on surveys of Maine broadband providers and consumers, the study finds that:
1. The general need and demand for higher levels of broadband service driven by social, economic, and technological factors are increasing.
2. Although Maine’s coverage for basic broadband services has increased, current service levels in many locations are still too low to support the growing network demands of higher-level applications.
3. Lack of perceived value in computer use and internet adoption has solidified as the most significant factor for nonsubscribers of broadband services.
4. Maine’s demographics continue to present a challenge to broadband advancement. Demographic factors that affect broadband use together with Maine’s national ranking in these categories show that Maine continues to rank high in those areas that retard broadband uptake and low in those areas that accelerate it. For example:
• Factors associated with increased broadband use are households with one or more children under the age of 18, households with more than three people, and small businesses in the finance and insurance industry. Maine ranks 48th out of 50 for all three.
• Factors associated with decreased broadband use are households with annual incomes of less than $15,000, households comprised of people over the age of 64, and small businesses with fewer than five workers. Maine ranks 18th, 5th, and 9th, respectively, for those factors.
5. Mobile wireless service is more widely available and used by consumer and business communities to complement other internet technologies.
To further broadband expansion in Maine, the study makes the following recommendations to the Authority:
1. Consider redefining minimum broadband service for grants at a speed level of 3 to 6 Mbps.
2. Encourage public-private partnerships to fund a complete build out of existing infrastructure, leveraging initiatives of healthcare, schools and libraries, business and the public safety broadband network.
3. Provide educational outreach on broadband’s value proposition (the benefits for the cost), targeted to specific audiences within each stakeholder group, including older citizens and small businesses.
4. Embrace mobile technology as broadband and leverage its power as a demand generator to drive broadband adoption. Given its popularity and ease of use, mobile wireless can be a powerful digital learning tool, increasing access to, demand for, and adoption of broadband in Maine.
Broadband availability statistics from the Baseline Update report:
• 93.1% of Maine street locations have access to broadband at speeds of 768 kbps or above – an increase of 2 percentage points from the June 2011 baseline report. 75.3% of Maine households subscribe to broadband.
• 84.9% of street locations have access to broadband at speeds of 3 Mbps or above – an increase of 71.6 percentage points.
• 43% of the geographic area of Maine has access to high-speed mobile broadband (4G) – an increase of 43 percentage points.
Phillip Lindley, Executive Director of the Authority, says, “The Update provides the most current information on broadband availability, use, and drivers of adoption in Maine. Although we have made significant progress in two years, we have much collaborative work to do, particularly in providing Maine communities with access to higher-speed broadband and with greater knowledge of the benefits it brings. This report gives us a sound set of recommendations that will focus our broadband strategies, as outlined in the Maine Broadband Strategic Plan, on accomplishing these key critical objectives.”
The ConnectME Authority’s goals are increasing broadband availability to Maine residents, businesses, and community anchor institutions, and raising awareness of broadband benefits to Maine education, health, and economic development.
A summary brochure on the study and the full study with appendices are available at http://www.maine.gov/connectme/grants/ntia/planning.shtml . For additional information, contact: Phillip Lindley, Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 207-624-9970.