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High-speed Internet and ‘a 21st century economy’

The New Hampshire Electric Cooperative was awarded $50 million last fall to provide high-speed Internet to more than 23,000 locations. Now, they’re starting to roll out access.

In this March 2020 file photo, Ashley Bullard, left, sits on the porch of her family's rural home in North Sandwich, N.H., as her daughters Raven, center, a senior in high school, and Willow, right, a freshman at Brandeis University, try to complete their classwork from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the town of 1,200 best known as the setting for the movie "On Golden Pond," broadband is scarce.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

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Robert Nadeau lives on a gravel road in Plymouth. Like many in rural communities across New Hampshire, he’s had a tough time getting fast and reliable Internet at home.

For a while, Nadeau said he paid for two connections: a sometimes-spotty satellite service and a steady-but-painfully-slow analog connection. But not anymore. He was all smiles this week as he joined a live video call from home without a hitch.


“Now we have service that’s like 10 times better, and we’re saving money every month,” he said. “So I couldn’t be happier.”

Nadeau’s newfound bandwidth is part of a big push to improve broadband Internet access. The federal government doled out money through the American Rescue Plan Act’s Capital Projects Fund, then the state awarded grants to local partners, which are now building out Internet infrastructure to unserved and underserved Granite Staters.

The New Hampshire Electric Cooperative was awarded $50 million last fall to provide high-speed Internet to more than 23,000 locations, and Consolidated Communications Enterprise Services was awarded $40 million earlier this year to connect nearly 25,000 locations.

A spokesperson said the cooperative is just beginning to connect the first few members as part of its grant-funded work, and Nadeau was among them. The cooperative plans to add connections in 73 towns over the next three years. (All the ARPA funds must be used by the end of 2026.)

Nadeau, a professor who teaches sales and marketing at Plymouth State University, said having broadband access at home helps him be more effective as an educator. It also helps him connect with corporate partners and his consulting clients, he said.


Senator Maggie Hassan, who joined Nadeau and others on the call to celebrate the cooperative’s grant, said having that ability to work online — to start businesses, apply for jobs, complete schoolwork, and stay connected — is essential.

“If we are going to build a 21st-century economy, then high-speed internet access must be a reality for every single Granite Stater in every corner of our state,” she said.

Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs, said state officials are moving aggressively to identify needs and meet them. That includes a broadband mapping initiative in collaboration with the University of New Hampshire, he said.

The map shows that the need is greatest in the rural-most parts of New Hampshire: 12.5 percent of addresses in Grafton County and 40.5 percent of addresses in Coos County are classified as unserved or underserved.

The Big Picture

Manchester Police Chief Allen Aldenberg speaks during a press conference Tuesday, May 23, at the Legislative Office Building in Concord, N.H., to call on state lawmakers to adequately fund the retirement system for public safety personnel. He was among hundreds of police and firefighters in attendance.Steven Porter

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Steven Porter can be reached at Follow him @reporterporter.