Regulations

Overregulation threatens efforts in Maine to expand broadband

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The internet in Maine is getting faster and easier to use than ever before. But recent improvements in Maine are at risk of coming to a halt due to heavy-handed regulation by the federal government.

Companies are investing in Maine to expand high-speed internet to 650,000 homes and businesses across the state. This internet expansion will boost the economy of Maine for years to come and help close the digital divide.

Expanded broadband access in Maine is opening up new opportunities from distance learning to telehealth. Mainers, particularly those in rural areas, understand the value that broadband access can bring to their lives.

But there’s more work to be done. Despite much progress, more work is needed to secure a bright economic future for Maine families.

According to Broadband Now, 10 percent of Mainers are underserved with access to fewer than two wireless providers, and Maine ranks fifth in the nation for lowest average internet speeds. Broadband access in rural Maine is well below minimum access speeds recommended by the Federal Communications Commission and 62 percent slower than the national average. This is particularly troubling for low-income families. According to the Portland Press Herald, “low-income households with children are four times more likely to lack a high-speed internet connection.”

Unfortunately, some lawmakers in Congress want to overregulate our internet by redefining it as a public utility through “net neutrality” rules, which amount to a massive government takeover of the internet. Such a move would threaten the progress that has been made in Maine.

These efforts will reduce the ease with which Mainers access the internet while simultaneously slowing up technological improvements. This will have dire consequences for both Maine’s economy and Mainers.

When net neutrality rules were in place under the Obama administration, there was a noticeable decline in private broadband investment. According to Americans for Prosperity, “Under Title II, broadband network investment dropped more than 5.6 percent – the first time a decline has happened outside of a recession.”

Overregulation of the internet will leave Maine behind in the nationwide race for high-speed internet coverage. The livelihood of rural Mainers depends on increased access. Net neutrality rules would stifle growth and disincentivize private investment in our broadband infrastructure.

Maine’s representatives in Congress need to take a stand and say no to a government takeover of the internet. Mainers can’t afford Congress to mess up the internet and stop progress in our state.

About Adam Crepeau

Adam Crepeau serves as a policy analyst at The Maine Heritage Policy Center. He can be reached at acrepeau@mainepolicy.org.

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