Today, the Maine State Senate unanimously voted to confirm Andrew Butcher as the first president of the Maine Connectivity Authority. The brand new agency, which will work to achieve universal access to high-speed broadband in the state, was proposed by Governor Janet Mills and created through bipartisan legislation earlier this year. Butcher’s unanimous confirmation is just the latest example of Governor Mills fighting for all Mainers to have access to affordable broadband. Since taking office in 2019, Mills has used a number of different programs to allocate a total of more than $150 million in funding towards building permanent, high quality internet infrastructure across the state.
In contrast, Mill’s predecessor, Paul LePage, spent his eight years as Governor obstructing progress on expanding internet access. Among LePage’s record number of vetoes was a bill to promote the planning of broadband expansion throughout the state. LePage also vetoed a unanimously-passed bill to create a mechanism to fund high-speed broadband across Maine, and proposed cutting the staff of the state office responsible for overseeing internet accessibility while giving utilities a tax break. This refusal to work with the legislature to increase broadband access in the state came despite the fact that Maine ranked in the bottom half of states in terms of internet access, with nearly 20% of households lacking a connection in the middle of his second term.
“Governor Mills’ effort to expand broadband access is exactly how Maine’s government should work,” said Drew Gattine, Chair of the Maine Democratic Party. “She identified a problem Mainers faced, proposed a solution, and has worked tirelessly in a bipartisan manner to turn that solution into law so it can improve the lives of Maine people. In contrast, Paul LePage spent his time in office vetoing bipartisan bills to expand broadband and fighting with the Legislature. We can’t let LePage drag us back to a time where the state’s government worked against Maine’s people, rather than for them.”