2017-03-23 / Editorial

Saving our school and library internet

Legislative Lowdown
by Rep. Martin Grohman

Imagine taking on a job search today without the internet. Or looking for a new home or apartment. Even if you have internet on your phone, that kind of research is hard to do. And consider our schools – how important is it for students today to have access to high speed internet? Thankfully, access to all of these opportunities is publicly available. That’s because of the Maine School and Library Network, which brings internet access to practically every school and library in Maine, including all of the Biddeford schools (including St. James) and McArthur Library.

And this is not dial up. Maine School and Library Network features some of the fastest speeds around. It’s economical too, bringing high speed internet to 950 schools and libraries statewide for just more than $4 million a year. However, funding for Maine School and Library Network is threatened.

State funding comes from the Maine Telecommunications Education Access Fund, which is supported by a fixed surcharge on land line phones. But as times change and less and less of us have land line phones, revenues that support Maine School and Library Network have declined. We need to find a new, stable source of funding. But I don’t think just increasing the fee on land line telephones is fair. Seniors and retirees are much more likely to be the ones who have land lines and their bills are high enough already. There is strong growth in cable and cell phone usage, and I think we should spread those costs more evenly. That’s why I’ve submitted legislation to reduce the charge on landlines and instead include more revenue from wireless and cable phones. Plus, this is a proven mechanism which is the same way we fund the 911 call support system.

As you read this, we are underway with hearings in Augusta on this legislation. I hope you will support me in pushing this change through, to keep our high speed internet in schools and libraries but drop the monthly surcharge on land line phones. As always, I appreciate your feedback at home at 283-1476 or via email at martin. grohman@legislature.maine.gov.

Rep. Martin Grohman (D-Biddeford) is serving his second term in the Maine Legislature. Outside the legislature, he is chairman of the Solid Waste Commission in Biddeford, and the owner of a small company called Hellocycle which does alkaline battery recycling by mail.

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