AT&T and Information Technology Disaster Resource Center Boost WiFi Connections at 70 Maine Locations
Effort aimed at closing the digital divide in rural and underserved areas
What’s the news? AT&T and the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center (ITDRC) are boosting connectivity in 70 locations, expanding and upgrading WiFi technology at libraries, parks, schools, community centers, town halls and other locations across the state, many in rural areas.
This effort is made possible in part by AT&T’s $150,000 donation to support ITDRC’s ProjectConnect initiative in New England.
The ITDRC is a nationwide, volunteer driven 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides no-cost information, communications, and technology resources to communities in crisis. It launched its projectConnect in response to changes in the learning environment due to the pandemic and the challenges of connectivity for many families. The program provides free Wi-Fi access points so that community members can access internet resources, including distance-learning curricula.
How will it work? ITDRC teams are currently making their way across Maine, working with local organizations to extend existing WiFi and upgrade aging technology. The needs of each location are unique. Technicians will make necessary equipment upgrades and adjustments to boost WiFi signal and extend service into parking lots and surrounding areas. There is no ongoing fee for use of the site.
To date, 57 of the 70 planned ITDRC sites have been completed.
Locations of the upgrades extend across the state of Maine to dozens of communities. Of the 70 sites being serviced, the majority are at libraries in rural communities, with schools, town halls, community centers and more also included.
Here are several examples of already completed ITDRC sites:
- Bowdoinham – Bowdoinham Town Office
- Berwick – Berwick Public Library
- Ellsworth (2) – Ellsworth Public Library, Ellsworth Elementary/Middle School
- Hallowell – Hubbard Free Library
- Gorham – North Gorham Public Library
- Lewiston – Lewiston Public Library/City Hall/Park
- Liberty – Liberty Library
- Lubec – Lubec Memorial Library
- Kennebunkport – Graves Memorial Library
- Manchester – Manchester Elementary School
- Norridgewock (2) – Mercer Road Library; Sophie May Library
- Sanford (2) – Sanford Middle School; Margaret Chase Smith Elementary
- Windham – Windham High School; Windham Primary School
Why is this important? While the global pandemic has shown how vital broadband is to successful learning outcomes unfortunately, it also exposed growing educational inequities. Access to reliable, affordable Internet connections is critical for students to learn and thrive – both in school and at home. But an estimated 17 million children have been unable to participate in distance learning during the global pandemic because their families don’t have a reliable internet connection or device.
In April 2021, AT&T committed $2 billion by 2024 to help bridge the digital divide, bringing affordable internet and opportunity to more Americans nationwide. The support for ITDRC and projectConnect in Maine is part of that financial pledge.
Learn more about how AT&T is committed to narrowing the homework gap and helping address inequities associated with virtual learning.
In addition to philanthropic efforts, AT&T has been investing in its network across the state of Maine in order to bring connectivity to places that need it most. From 2018-2020, AT&T expanded coverage and improved connectivity in more communities by investing nearly $150 million in its wireless network in Maine.
As a result, as of 2021, AT&T is now Maine’s largest network.
What are people saying?
Maine Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development
“I applaud ITDRC and AT&T’s commitment to expand and upgrade aging technology to make reliable internet available to communities, especially in rural Maine. The Administration is committed to making sure that all Mainers, regardless of their geographic location, have access to affordable and reliable high-speed internet. This project will improve connectivity and create additional learning opportunities for students.”
President, AT&T Maine
“Every student deserves an opportunity to make their dreams a reality. At AT&T, we are proud to support projectConnect, which will make important strides towards bridging the digital divide in Maine. The efficient, widespread nature of this project means that dozens of communities across Maine will see the benefits. We are grateful for ITDRC’s collaboration, knowing that together we can bring the right technology to the right places, improve connectivity options for students and give them better access to learning resources to help them achieve their goals in school and beyond”
Director of Strategic Partnerships, ITDRC
"ProjectConnect has allowed ITDRC to support communities all over Maine impacted by COVID-19, a federally declared disaster, in a tangible way, extending WiFi and bridging the digital divide. Being able to stay connected to school, family, and work is more important than it ever has been, and we are here to help.”
Director of Operations, ITDRC
"We are proud of the work we've been doing in Maine, expanding and modernizing community library infrastructure. Through our collaborative partnership with AT&T and the Maine State Library system, we have been able to optimize and increase the coverage, speed, and security of these networks for the residents of Maine."