Nearly half of Mainers who responded to a recent survey said their internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic has been less than adequate.
Results of the statewide survey by Mission Broadband, a Bangor-based firm, reveal disparities in broadband access and affordability in different areas, a divide that has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release from Mission Broadband.
Roughly 47 percent of the more than 2,600 respondents indicated that their internet service has not met their needs since the start of the pandemic. Respondents said the biggest issues have been slow connectivity, unreliable service and cost.
The survey results are being shared with stakeholders across the state, including community organizations and municipal governments.
Mission Broadband said inadequate internet service is affecting telecommuters as well as parents, teachers and students trying to conduct distance learning programs. The poor service is also affecting telehealth programs. Of those surveyed, 61 percent were using the internet for telecommuting, 32 percent for K-12 distance learning, and 31 percent for telehealth services.
More than half those surveyed said they felt internet access was not affordable – a worrying sign given the increase in demand during the pandemic and the sluggish economy that has resulted from it.
“Having adequate internet access is no longer just for entertainment. It is a necessity for the economy and for our livelihoods,” John Dougherty, Mission Broadband vice president and general manager, said in a statement. “These survey results identified broadband challenges experienced by Maine residents and will help develop the right broadband roadmap going forward.”
Mission Broadband is working to expand broadband access to unserved and underserved Maine communities. The firm works through public and private partnerships to combine federal and local funding, and private investment to build network infrastructure in communities that lack adequate broadband access for residents, businesses, schools and health networks.
Mission Broadband said it conducted the broadband survey in conjunction with the ConnectME Authority to highlight gaps in coverage and socioeconomic factors affecting internet access in communities around the state. The ConnectME Authority is a branch of state government that facilitates and promotes the universal availability of broadband to Maine households and businesses.
Mission Broadband said that because no one knows how much longer people will need to work from home or be involved in distance learning, the firm will continue to gather data to share with the state and communities.