Rep. Jared Golden (AP)
Rep. Jared Golden (AP)

Rep. Jared Golden is working to improve high speed internet for rural areas in Maine by helping small businesses build the “last mile” of broadband infrastructure. 

For many small businesses in rural areas, access to reliably fast internet speeds is a challenge, one that has become more apparent during the pandemic. Existing broadband infrastructure is often located along a major roadway, and for businesses and homes that are set back far from the road that means internet access can be slow or spotty. And creating the infrastructure to bring the internet that “last mile” is often too expensive for individuals or small businesses.

“Most small businesses know they need high-speed broadband to reach their full potential, so broadband access is a must when they look to expand in Maine, relocate to our state, and for tele-working options. That is often challenging in rural parts of Maine, as many Realtors here can attest,” Tom Cole, the president of the Maine Association of REALTORS, said in a statement.

Rep. Golden said improving access to the internet is a high priority for many of his constituents and said the issue has been brought up multiple times in discussions. 

“The message was clear: Congress is not doing enough to help small businesses access broadband in rural America,” said Golden in a statement

In response, Golden and Rep. Pete Stauber introduced new legislation that would provide funding to bring broadband internet access the last mile to small businesses. 

“The legislation we’re introducing today would provide grants of up to $35,000 to help rural small businesses connect over that ‘last mile’ to existing broadband infrastructure. Solving the last mile problem will help American small businesses compete and continue to offer good jobs in rural areas,” Golden said. 

The legislation would offer grants up to $15,000 for single businesses or $35,000 for several businesses to connect to broadband. So far, the legislation has received support from local groups like the Maine Farmland Trust. 

“The lack of access to reliable, high-speed Internet service in Maine remains a challenge for many farmers across the state, preventing them from growing and diversifying their businesses, especially now with the coronavirus pandemic,” said president and CEO Bill Toomey in a statement. “This bill is an important step towards addressing that challenge and helping farmers grow their operations and access new markets.”

This isn’t the first time Golden has worked to improve internet access in Maine. For instance, most recently he worked with Rep. Chellie Pingree to urge Congress to support funding for Maine students who do not have access to the internet at home.