By Susan Crawford

August 13, 2014 BloombergView - Rockport, Maine, population 3,321, is trying to solve the existential dilemma of small-town America: How do you get people like Meg Weston's students to stick around?

Weston is the president of Maine Media Workshops + College, one of Rockport's primary economic drivers. When she took office in 2012, she saw that the college couldn't survive without a better Internet connection. Her students needed to upload and download enormous digital files using three or more devices each; she says the school hit a wall with its existing communications capacity.

The town's Internet access connection didn't have enough room to handle the school's demands, and private companies would charge too much to be a realistic option.

That is, until this week, when Rockport opened its own gigabit-scale municipal fiber optic network -- meaning it can transmit a thousand megabits of data a second. Weston is jubilant: Given the inexpensive, world-class connectivity, she can make the school's courses available to people in other states and countries -- and persuade her students to make a life in Maine.

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