Leadership Maine (LM), a program of the Maine Development Foundation, enables about 40 professionals each year, from throughout Maine, who are at different stages of their career and who are from business, nonprofit and government organizations – to come together over nine months to learn leadership skills, build professional networks, and learn about many of the most innovative and successful companies, projects and individuals moving Maine forward today.As part of the LM experience, teams form to dig into a problematic and controversial issue in the state and then present their findings to mitigate or solve the issue. Our Yellow Team, was given the issue of how to get all of Maine better connected to the outside world to improve Maine’s economy.
While our group discussed road, railroad and waterway connections, we decided that Internet connectivity was the most critical – i.e. the need for creating access to high speed Internet in all areas of Maine. Not having high speed Internet access today is like not having a car or telephone. It leaves individuals and organizations out of the mainstream and out-of-luck to access educational opportunities and compete with companies around the state, country and world.
Our group embarked on an interesting, but often perplexing and frustrating journey of trying to discover and untangle the web of resources available for individuals and businesses to access high speed Internet for their home, business, school or town.
What we found is that building high speed connections throughout Maine is a modern Tower of Babel-like experience – hundreds of people working on the same goal but speaking different languages. The ‘language’ or special interests of for-profit companies and of state and local governments are unique. Some major interests are the providers: the “Three Ring Binder” network of Maine Fiber Company, Verizon/Fairpoint companies and smaller individual providers. The other players are educators/streamliners/advocates such as: the ConnectME Authority (Govrnment off shoot leading the way with funding), individual providers and special interest groups such as Maine’s Adult Education and libraries.
With these different languages and niches, not all players are coordinating with each other. This is holding economic development back and certainly makes for a frustrating experience to those who desperately want and need high speed internet service. A key issue seems to be that there is no one entity that ‘owns’ the internet, ‘owns’ the responsibility and accountability for connection.
Our group first thought a resource booklet listing all resources would be useful. However, we decided that approach was too “old school” and would become obsolete quickly. A reader couldn’t interact with it. It is not a living, breathing document. Hence, the booklet morphed into a blog, so it can be interactive with readers sharing information on how to get connected, as well as update news articles, awarded grants and funding, and major changes in the landscape, which is ever changing. Concurrently, we hope this blog will morph into including information about training opportunities, so all ages can learn how best to use technology and the net for education and business development. As someone on our team said, “ $1 million invested in technology gives you $1 million of technology. $1 million invested in technology and training gives you $10 million in results.”
In sum, our vision is that this blog becomes a well-visited and used site and one that leads to real solutions, real connectivity action and also technology training to get all of Maine connected to the net and harness its power to improve Maine’s economy and quality of life for all residents.
Connect ME <-> Connect You <-> Connect Us