With the state's help, an increasing number of residents in rural Washington County in Down East Maine are using high-speed Internet connections to run their blueberry farms and lobster fleets, educate their children and communicate with doctors from remote areas.
But it's a large county and its 34,000 residents are spread out: At twice the size of Rhode Island, it takes four hours to cross in a car, and yet there's only one traffic light. That means it's slow going for local Internet provider, Axiom Technologies, which is working town by town to set up wireless access points, sometimes serving as few as 12 households per connection.
Axiom maxed out financially some time ago to expand on its own, even as other towns asked to join the broadband network. The state stepped in and awarded Axiom grants of $750,000 over the last three years, said CEO Susan Corbett.
States across the country have pursued similar efforts toward creating statewide broadband policies and better access for their residents. But their scale pales in comparison to the $7.2 billion in stimulus money the federal government has committed over the next two years to improve high-speed Internet connections around the country.
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