August 24, 2017

Strong joins Franklin County high-speed internet initiative

Selectmen in the town of Strong agreed to contribute $787 to the Franklin County Broadband Initiative study, which in May received a grant for $43,000 from the state to pay for a six-month review of broadband access in the county. The county's 22 towns, as well as Livermore Falls, in Androscoggin County, must match that figure.

The step is the latest of many in a decade-long effort by the state to bring high-speed broadband to huge swaths of rural under-served communities. ConnectME, a state government effort to bring high-speed Internet, which isn't regulated the way other utilities are, has granted more than $11 million since its inception in June 2007.

The 137 grants could bring a potential of nearly 39,000 Internet connections, according to ConnectME's overview of the 10 rounds of grants it's awarded.

The ConnectME authority's 2016-19 strategic plan says that "a more aggressive use of broadband" in business, government, education, consumer areas and health care in the state's underserved communities "could generate 11,000 new jobs in Maine over the next decade, and $485 million in income."

The Franklin County initiative group includes the Opportunity Center of Northern Franklin County, the Greater Franklin Development Council, the Rangeley Economic Opportunity Committee and the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments.


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