AUGUSTA — The Maine Senate unanimously enacted a bill from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, that would create a state plan to improve cell phone coverage in rural Maine on Tuesday. LD 1603, “Resolve, To Coordinate a Plan to Expand Cellular Telephone Service” will now go to the governor’s desk. Gov. Janet Mills has 10 days to sign the bill into law, let it become law without her signature or veto it.
“This bill is about removing technological barriers that prevent rural Mainers from getting ahead. Improving rural cell phone coverage is vital for attracting and retaining young people, ensuring students can compete in the workforce and helping small businesses connect with customers,” said President Jackson. “I’m grateful to the work of both the Committee and the Department for their input on this important bill. I look forward to the development and implementation of this plan.”
LD 1603 directs the Department of Administrative and Financial Services to work with NetworkMaine and the Connect Maine Authority to develop a plan to expand cellular telephone service to underserved areas of the state. This may involve installing wireless base stations at state-owned facilities, but the bill leaves the significant authority to experts to determine how to best expand coverage.
Expanding cell phone coverage relies on the same fiber that brings broadband to rural areas. This plan could be developed in collaboration with other plans of Connect Maine to expand broadband service in similarly unserved areas.
LD 1603 received a unanimous vote in the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee as well as in House of Representatives.