Jamie Ritter can’t connect to the internet from his home in Denmark, Maine, which is at the end of a road, down a dirt driveway and too far away from existing infrastructure.
He’s been shepherding a community effort to bring broadband to Maine’s lake region for more than a year. The new $65 billion federal investment in broadband included in the bipartisan infrastructure legislation signed Monday could help finally make it a reality – but he warns it still won’t be easy.
“The money coming in does gives you hope. But there will still be ups and downs. It’s going to be a slog,” Ritter said.
Many rural areas across the country lack access to high-speed, affordable internet largely because installing the infrastructure isn’t worth the investment for internet service providers to take on. The cost is too great and the return too small. After being told by a provider that Denmark, with its 1,000 homes, was too small to serve, Ritter is trying to bring more communities together.
The unprecedented amount of federal funding for broadband aims to fix the digital divide in a different way than the government has tried before. It will put money into the hands of communities that may know how to best address the issue. The funding will target three major barriers to adoption: the cost of building the infrastructure, the user fees charged to households and people’s familiarity with using the technology.
$65 billion targeting the digital divide
Roughly 30 million households across the country don’t have access to adequate internet service, said Deputy Commerce Secretary Don Graves on a press call last week. Communities of color, low-income areas and rural regions are less likely to have broadband connection.
“Reliable, high-speed internet is a necessity and the Covid-19 pandemic made that painfully clear,” he ad