Governor Janet Mills announced today that she will appoint Andrew Butcher, director of the Maine Broadband Coalition, as the first chair of the new Maine Connectivity Authority.
The Maine Connectivity Authority, the new state entity tasked with ensuring the universal availability of broadband in Maine, was proposed by Governor Mills and created by bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator Rick Bennett (R-Oxford) and co-sponsored by Representative Seth Berry. (D-Bowdoinham) and the Co-Chairs of Broadband caucus of the legislature. The Legislature unanimously passed the bill and Governor Mills proclaimed it into law on June 25, 2021.
In addition to being Director of the Maine Broadband Coalition, Butcher is also Director of Innovation and Resilience for the Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) and has extensive experience in expanding and deploying broadband. As director of the Broadband Coalition – an organization that represents and advocates for businesses, communities and Internet users to ensure affordable and equitable access to broadband connectivity – he co-led the successful effort to adopt Governor Mills’ 2020 bond proposal providing $ 15 million to expand broadband. It has also partnered with the Maine Technology Institute, the Connect Maine Authority and the Maine Community Foundation to oversee data collection to support the deployment of broadband. Under his leadership, the size of the organization grew tenfold, attracting new members to promote the importance of broadband.
As Director of Innovation and Resilience at GPCOG, Butcher supports the agency’s lending programs, sustainability, resilience and broadband initiatives. He has launched innovative financing programs, developed a resilience body to build the capacity of local government agencies, and led multi-city collaborative efforts to build smart and connected infrastructure.
Butcher holds a Master of Science in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor of Political Science from American University. He is the recipient of the Echoing Green Global Fellowship for Social Entrepreneurship and was a Coro Fellow in St. Louis, Missouri. He lives in Portland with his wife and two children.
“Andrew’s broadband expertise and extensive experience in cross-community infrastructure and financial management position him well to take on this important new role. ” Governor Janet Mills said. “Expanding access to affordable broadband is critical to strengthening our economy and providing education, telehealth, business and workforce opportunities to people in all corners of our state. With funding from the US bailout and the Maine Jobs and Stimulus Plan, we have the resources to expand broadband and connectivity in general. I look forward to working closely with Andrew to make this happen.
“I am honored that Governor Mills appoints me for this post”, says Andrew Boucher. “I have devoted much of my professional career to expanding access to affordable broadband because I know how crucial it is to the success of communities in Maine, especially those in rural Maine. I share Governor Mills’ commitment to ensuring that people across the state have access to affordable broadband and, if confirmed, I will do my utmost to bring in the unprecedented funding that our state receives wisely on behalf of the people of Maine. “
“Andrew is a proven leader with a background in building strong organizations and a deep dedication to the types of forward-looking investments in Maine communities that the Maine Connectivity Authority will make,” said Tim Schneider, chairman of the board of directors of the Maine Connectivity Authority. “The success of the Authority is vital to the future of the state and the Board of Directors is delighted that Andrew is leading this work. “
In addition to the role of president, the Maine Connectivity Authority is governed by a board of seven members. Governor Mills was sworn in to board members on July 20, 2021, just a day after they were unanimously confirmed by the state Senate.
Governor Mills has committed $ 21 million as part of the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, which, combined with the $ 129 million US bailout, will provide a total of $ 150 million to the Maine Connectivity Authority to expand the access to affordable broadband.
The Authority is empowered to own physical broadband infrastructure, such as poles and cables, and to own shares in broadband projects. It is also empowered to provide grants and loans and to partner with the private sector and local communities to leverage investments and coordinate the construction of infrastructure. The Authority positions Maine to take a more proactive approach to bridging the digital divide in rural and hard-to-reach communities, focusing on meeting Maine’s current and future needs, rather than pushing back and forth. coup with various private companies to build a patchwork of infrastructure.
The Authority will strive to ensure three objectives: that efficient and accessible connectivity is universally available in the State; that there are secure, affordable, reliable, competitive and sustainable infrastructure capable of meeting future needs; and that all residents, businesses and institutions in Maine can take full advantage of the economic, health, educational and other opportunities available through connectivity services.
The Maine Connectivity Authority is the next step in Governor Mills’ commitment to expanding access to affordable broadband in Maine, one of his top priorities. Last year, the governor secured approval for a proposed $ 15 million broadband bond, the first new investment in Internet expansion in more than a decade. Governor Mills announced earlier this year that bond funding had been approved for 20 projects in 11 counties in Maine serving 8,571 sites. The Mills administration is also spearheading a broadband mapping initiative to facilitate broadband expansion in areas with inadequate service.
During the pandemic, the governor also committed $ 5.6 million to the CARES Act coronavirus relief fund, in partnership with private internet providers, to build a permanent internet infrastructure for more than 730 students in rural Maine. The initiative builds on the previous work of the Mills administration to secure mobile hotspots and learning devices for nearly 24,000 students in Maine after schools suspended classroom instruction and embraced distance learning earlier this year.