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Nathan Newman on March 31, 2006 - 1:51pm
Even as some state governments are blocking expansion of local high-speed wireless Internet, a key legislative committee in Maine voted for a bill to encourage high-speed Internet in rural areas. Through a small tax on communications services, the program, sponsored by State Representative Hannah Pingree (who is also a Progressive States board member) will extend wireless Internet to rural areas, a key part of Maine's goal of extending economic development:
"This is an economic development opportunity where we can say let's give you a tool so you can work for a company in Boston," said Sen. Philip Bartlett, D-Gorham.There is plenty of evidence of the key importance for rural areas of such an approach. In Minnesota, for example, the state committed resources in 2001 to encouraging high-speed Internet in rural areas. By 2003, the state leverage $1 million in grants to leverage $6 million in private investment to make high-speed Internet available to 14,000 businesses and 266,000 homes in outstate Minnesota. A study by the Center for Rural Policy and Development found that due to the program, the rural areas of the state had about the same level of broadband access as other Americans. Like Maine, its a model that other states should emulate as well.