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Voters decide Tuesday whether state should invest in high-speed internet infrastructure

Question 1 is a $15 million Internet Infrastructure Bond Issue designed to bring high-speed internet service to primarily rural areas of Maine

MAINE, USA — On July 14, Mainers will be asked to vote yes or no on Question 1.

Question 1 would provide funding for high-speed internet infrastructure in areas where broadband service is not reliable or not available. 

One of those places is the town of Newport.

"Good internet isn't available or they just don't have it so it's challenging," said Mary Nadeau, the principal of Nokomis Regional High School in Newport.

When the pandemic hit Nadeau used Facebook Live as a way to connect with students but not all students could access her videos.

The school, which serves 600 students in eight towns in rural Maine, was able to give out a few hot spots to students to increase connectivity. For those without internet, Nadeau made sure they had printed school work.

"Myself, the office staff, some of the department chairs, we are able to spread out, get them printed, organized and it's going out on the school buses daily."

RELATED: Principal delivers morning announcements, including pledge via Facebook live during coronavirus, COVID-19 school closure

Newport isn't the only rural community struggling with fast and reliable internet. 

In Piscataquis County, three-quarters of households don't have access to high-speed internet.

"There are kids who got to school particularly outside Portland who don't have access to great internet," said Nick Battista, Co-Chair of the Yes on 1 Campaign.

Battista says it's not just students who are at a disadvantage. Maine businesses and families without reliable internet are simply left behind. 

"Voting yes on 1 is something Mainers can do today to improve the economy and to help people connect with their families and loved ones," said Battista.

RELATED: Maine DOE delivers tablets to Piscataquis County Schools to help with online learning during coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic

Question 1 would invest 15 million to expand high speed internet. Money that would be matched by private, local and federal resources for a total investment of 45 million dollars.

"I grew up in Falmouth and the places that will get funding from Question 1 are places that don't have internet as good as I did in the late 90's".

Battista says there is a large diverse group of businesses, organizations, and communities supporting the bond. Some of them include the Maine Lobsterman's Association, Northern Light Health, Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Lee Auto Mall, Machias Saving Bank, and Maine Beer Company.

"These are groups who generally haven't been involved in the broadband conversation too much but are seeing in today's world just how important this investment is for the state of Maine," Battista said.

There is no organized group opposing Question 1. 

Question 2 on the ballot will ask voters if they support a $105 million state investment to improve Maine's transportation infrastructure, money that would be used to match an estimated $275 million in federal funds.  

The funds would be used for improvements on bridges, highways, and pedestrian projects. 

Unlike in previous years, approval of this bond is needed to support projects that are slated to start this year.

 MaineDOT says if Question 2 does not pass it will have no choice but to cut projects. 

RELATED: Everything you need to know ahead of the July 14 Maine state primary election

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