Networkmaine and the Maine State Library partnered with the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center (ITDRC) over the last year to boost connectivity at 71 Maine locations, expanding and upgrading Wi-Fi technology at libraries, parks, schools, community centers, town halls, and other locations across the state.
Forty-nine of these locations participate in the Maine School and Library Network (MSLN), operated by Networkmaine, with the majority of them being public libraries in rural communities, with schools also included.
Networkmaine is providing Internet access, network management systems, and ongoing technical support for the schools and libraries participating in this project. ITDRC volunteers have made their way across Maine installing new equipment, funded in part by the Maine State Library to boost Wi-Fi signals and extend service into parking lots and surrounding areas.
ITDRC (https://www.itdrc.org) is a volunteer-driven non-profit that has deployed more than 850 Wi-Fi hotspots for its COVID-19 operation alone, providing free Internet access points, installation, and other IT support for COVID-19 testing sites, emergency operations centers, schools, libraries, community centers, non-profits, and other facilities for the benefit of the communities they serve. This support is critical to address standard IT disaster response needs as well as the significant impact of COVID-19 on communities across the country.
“While the global pandemic has shown us all the importance of broadband, it has also exposed the growing inequities in our communities,” said Networkmaine executive director Jeff Letourneau. “Access to reliable, affordable Internet is essential for students to learn and thrive – both in school and at home – but far too many have been unable to participate in distance learning the past couple years.”
With ITDRC’s projectConnect initiative (https://go.itdrc.org/projectconnect) deployed in Maine, more than 270 Wi-Fi hotspots, hosted by Networkmaine members, have enabled children to participate in online curricula and complete classroom assignments, allowed community members to obtain unemployment and reemployment resources, provided access to digital banking, connected citizens to telemedicine resources, enabled voter registration and census taking, and much more. This Internet connectivity additionally helps to bridge the digital divide, especially in rural areas and underserved neighborhoods which often lack broadband options.
For more information, visit https://networkmaine.net/wifi.
Networkmaine is a unit of the University of Maine System providing Maine’s Research & Education (R&E) community with access to high-bandwidth, low-latency connectivity and complimentary services that enhance their ability to successfully deliver on their missions. Created in 2009 by a memorandum of understanding, Networkmaine operates through a coordinating council which comprises the University of Maine System, the Maine State Department of Education, the Maine State Library, and the Maine State Government Office of Information Technology. The Networkmaine Council provides the public entities served with greater involvement in shaping the future of Maine’s research and education network, MaineREN.