All-In Programs & Funding FAQs

Maine is ALL IN to get Internet for all!
 

We can get there from here through the deployment of $150M from the American Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Fund and the Maine Jobs and Recovery Program. Funding through the Maine Connectivity Authority is designed to reach the last mile in the most rural places, connect communities ready to scale their infrastructure, prepare communities for investment, ensure affordable options for everyone, and invest in partnerships to build a modern broadband infrastructure for Maine.

The following FAQs will continue to evolve as MCA learns from stakeholders through an engagement process during the summer and early fall of 2022. For more information about these engagement opportunities, please visit the All-In Funding page.

Program Principles & Overview

Q: Is MCA the primary authority for broadband programming in Maine?

A: Yes, MCA is the state agency responsible for designing, deploying, and managing broadband activities and federal funds. MCA and Connect Maine agreed to an integration and alignment of services under the MCA umbrella in June 2022. 

 

Q: Who should I speak with at MCA if I have a question?

A: A list of our team members and general contact information is available on the website.
 

Q: How will MCA help protect private investments without negatively impacting community efforts?

A: We are committed to maximizing the reach and impact of funding. We are incorporating that balance in a variety of ways.
 

  • Data collection efforts include the industry data filings of where broadband service is already available, and providers will have the opportunity to submit data on planned networks. 

  • Contractual commitments between providers and communities help protect and ensure planned projects. 

  • Maine’s Broadband Intelligence Platform (our data mapping system) includes local data about community planning and crowdsourced speed testing. 

  • The Community-Driven Broadband Planning Process includes the assessment of existing networks and plans. 

  • All-In Programming recognizes the difference between mostly served communities where line extensions could result in universal internet service and large unserved and underserved regions where extensive last-mile infrastructure is needed for universal broadband service. 

  • We are looking to support activities to help communities and providers work together to plan solutions that leverage assets and achieve community goals.

 

Q: Will I have other opportunities to share feedback or engage before MCA’s programming launches?

A: Yes, we will host a series of virtual and in-person events, online surveys, and other engagement opportunities. These will be listed on this page or on the Events page of our website. To stay up to date on the latest MCA news, please follow us on social media and subscribe to our email list by completing the form at the bottom of this page.

 

Q: Why does MCA use Zoom Webinars instead of Zoom Meetings? (Webinars don’t allow me to see the names and faces of all other participants)

A: We take public input very seriously and are committed to providing space for meaningful information sharing and feedback. As a result, we are hosting a variety of events in several formats through the summer of 2022, leading up to the program launch this fall. Webinars represent an efficient way of conveying information and being mindful of everyone’s limited time - especially as we seek to get programs in place to make funding available.

Since June 2022, we have engaged in dozens of direct conversations with ISPs and community partnerships to help inform program designs. If you have suggestions for how we can enable a meaningful exchange of information, please contact Andrew Butcher:  AButcher@maineconnectivity.org.

 

Q: Can we get MCA to meet with our local committee?

A: Feel free to express your interest or status of your planning committee through our Contact page. The Maine Broadband Coalition is also an excellent resource for communities at various stages of the process.

 

Q: How does MCA determine “unserved” and the speeds required for “broadband” service?

A: In transitioning ConnectMaine programs to MCA, the designations of unserved areas and broadband service won’t be changed, except as required by federal funds. The Capital Projects Funds must be prioritized to areas without service offerings of at least 100/20mbps. MCA recognizes preference for least served areas, which ConnectMaine defined as less than 25/3mbps. Maine’s definition of broadband service remains at least 100/100mbps, which is also the preferred performance standard under Capital Project Funds. We will still recognize preference for projects that propose service offerings with symmetrical gigabit speeds. We will also use strategies and funds to ensure everyone in Maine who wants an internet connection can get access by 2025.

 

Q: How do you define “future-proof networks”?

A: Investments focused on long-term benefits wherein; the cost of building the network shouldn’t outlive the network's capacity. Performance standards are being incorporated into the programming design process to ensure future-proof networks. We seek to enable innovation and new value from public-private partnerships to help ensure long-lasting investments.

 

Q: How do I find out what broadband service currently exists for my community?

A: Today, you can visit the Maine Broadband Coalition’s website to take and view Maine Broadband Speed Testing Initiative. Also, you can find internet service providers listed by county in the Ratewatcher Guide as a starting place. This fall, you can view the Broadband Intelligence Platform to better understand broadband service availability across the state. 

 

Q: Do you have federal funds in the bank?

A: For most of the federal funds available to Maine, MCA must apply to show how the funds will be used. The All-In Programming has been approved, and as grants are awarded, MCA will be reimbursed according to federal requirements. Federal funds aren’t transferred in a large upfront sum to MCA.

Data Collection & Geographic Areas


Q: Will the geographic areas identified for MCA programming be viewable?


A: Yes, this fall, we are excited to publish maps of the areas identified for all-in programming on our website. (This is a difficult endeavor given the complications around data, but we hope to share as much insight to the public around broadband service in Maine.)

 

Q: How will MCA know where proposed middle-mile projects will take place as last-mile infrastructure is designed?
 

A: If unserved and underserved areas do not have nearby middle-mile infrastructure that makes last-mile connections possible, then the area could be identified for Enabling Middle-Mile Partnerships and funds. (Since June 2022, MCA has had over 40 direct conversations with stakeholders, providers, communities, and potential partners to help inform this concept. In May, a Request for Proposals was posted to select consultants to help inform a larger middle-mile strategy. In July, we posted a Request For Information to further seek ideas and information.)

Q: Will internet service providers have access to the Broadband Intelligence Platform to better collaborate with MCA throughout the application process?
 

A: Yes, the Broadband Intelligence Platform will be accessible to participants of all-in programming via program coordination with MCA. Additionally, several providers already use or are familiar with the VETRO software platform on which the BIP is based. Public maps from the Broadband Intelligence Platform will be available in the fall of 2022.

 

Q: Will MCA require a network design as part of programming applications? 

A: Yes, a high-level design of the proposed network will be an application element for both the Connect the Ready and Reach Me programs. This will be similar to the past ConnectMaine application process. Resources and instructions will be shared later in September. We hope to streamline and coordinate as much of the process, ensuring providers and communities have everything that is needed to propose projects. (The Get Ready Initiative won’t require network designs upfront; we hope to help communities and partners generate such designs through program participation.)

 

Q: Why doesn’t Maine have a law like New Hampshire that requires providers to share detailed information with communities interested in bonding for broadband infrastructure?
 

A: Maine has annual required data filing through ConnectMaine’s legal requirements, which have now been assigned to MCA. Once developed, the Broadband Intelligence Platform will be a source of broadband data to support community planning. MCA isn’t a policy-making body and won’t undertake rulemaking in the near future. The Community-Driven Broadband Planning Process includes the assessment of existing networks and plans. Communities and providers should work together to plan solutions that leverage assets and achieve broadband goals.

 

Q: Will MCA help fund the increased expense of the new FCC Broadband Data Collection? The FCC requires data in a manner that is expensive to produce, and providers may have to pass this cost on to consumers.
 

A: Sorry - while we can’t fund FCC data filings, we have posted helpful resources for data collection on the website, and the FCC is making the baseline data available to data filers. The data filling is very similar to the last two annual required data filing requests made by ConnectMaine. Where broadband service is offered, data filings help to protect the provider’s investments; where broadband service isn’t offered, data filings will help ensure Maine receives all available federal funds. We appreciate that this can be onerous for the small businesses looking to provide connectivity, especially as it is such an important part of determining how much public funding is needed to bridge the digital divide.

 

Q: How do you differentiate between resident and seasonal populations?

A: Potential subscriber locations are inclusive of residences, businesses, and other institutions. How locations are occupied or used can change over time. The differentiation could affect how a community plans for broadband and how an internet service provider prices its service offerings.

Connect the Ready
 

Q: Would a public-sector applicant or Broadband Utility District need a private ISP partner for a Connect the Ready application this fall?

A: Yes, public-private partnerships are important to the success of Connect the Ready projects. We look forward to gathering feedback about how and when applicants can demonstrate successful partnerships and will create support and resources for BUDs with the Get Ready Initiative.
 

Q: What is the best way to build a partnership with an ISP? Is the only way to apply for a project to have the ISP take the lead?

A: Communities and regions at the beginning stages of considering an infrastructure project and wanting to build a relationship with an ISP could look to the Get Ready Initiative for technical assistance. While Connect the Ready applications will be welcomed from ISPs, communities, tribes, and utility districts, public-private partnerships are important to the success of proposed projects, and we encourage a demonstrated partnership. The Community-Driven Broadband Planning Process is the best way to start building partnerships, and more information can be found here.

 

Q: Will MCA require a minimum financial commitment to proposed projects? What if this amount exceeds the total project cost?

A: Yes, but the minimum amount may vary from program to program. Under Connect the Ready and Reach Me, the minimum financial commitment is proposed to be a dollar amount per potential subscriber location, recognizing the high cost of projects in low-density areas. The amount needs to be high enough for adequate cost-sharing to allow investments to be maximized. In the last application window, ConnectMaine used $700 per location. If the financial commitment exceeded the total project cost, then the scope was too small, or the area was very dense. This is also an indicator of grant necessity.

Get Ready Initiative

Q: Do communities need to reboot their broadband planning efforts to participate in MCA programming? 
 

A: No, communities that have feasible infrastructure projects ready for deployment can potentially apply for Connect the Ready Grants. Communities that aren’t ready may consider whether participation in the Get Ready Initiative can help prepare them for the next application window. MCA will also be designing additional programming to support communities in many different stages of planning and with digital inclusion efforts. Our goal is to get communities to “yes.”

 

Q: When reviewing minimum financial commitment requirements, can the financial capacity of communities be considered?

A: Yes, because we are committed to meeting partnerships where they are and have designed All-In Programming with a variety of pathways to success. (If community capacity is a challenge, we hope to work with partners to provide a variety of technical assistance, financial support, and other resources to bolster capacity through the Get Ready Initiative.) During this engagement process, we seek feedback about using a lower minimum contribution when communities own the infrastructure and/or evaluate public benefit built into the proposed project, as demonstrated through Connect the Ready application or participation in Get Ready. 
 

Q: What is the plan to help communities get up-to-date provider-specific broadband availability mapping?
 

A: The MCA is currently seeking information from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to help inform maps that convey broadband availability. At the same time, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is also collecting information to create maps that will inform how much money MCA will be able to deploy through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Both data collection efforts will help make the Broadband Intelligence Platform (BIP) and public maps more useful. Before we get through current data collection and BIP development this fall, communication with your ISPs is the most timely way to gain information about existing and planned networks. If your community is still assessing the existing infrastructure, you may consider whether or not the Get Ready Initiative could support your planning efforts.

Enable Middle Mile Partnerships

Q: What role will the “Three-Ring Binder” middle-mile fiber backbone play?

A: The Three-Ring Binder remains an important, central part of the state's middle-mile infrastructure. Enabling Middle-Mile Partnerships can leverage this investment and will seek to reach more places and reduce the cost of middle-mile services.

Reach Me Line Extension Incentives

Q: How will you consider Reach Me proposals that overlap with Connect the Ready projects?

A: Reach Me is entirely new programming for Maine. As such, we are working to avoid overlaps as the purpose of the programs differ. Reach Me Incentives will support line extensions from existing networks in mostly served communities. Connect the Ready Grants will be awarded for universal broadband projects in unserved and underserved regions where there’s nearby middle-mile infrastructure but where line extensions wouldn’t fully serve the community. To identify areas for each, we are using the Broadband Intelligence Platform.

Alternative Services

Q: How will MCA support locations where traditional last-mile infrastructure makes little sense?
 

A: MCA is evaluating alternative technologies to help ensure that everyone who wants an internet connection can get access by 2025. The Jumpstart Initiative is piloting wireless technology. MCA is aware that Starlink is still in beta testing and that performance of the service doesn’t meet the requirements of available federal funding. While alternatives don’t currently meet the performance standards for broadband, they can be a part of the puzzle to expanding internet service. 

 

Q: Where are the discussions about cellular service?

A: The federal funds currently available are for broadband service, but we recognize the need for all kinds of telecommunications services, especially since better cell coverage in Maine will require a more robust middle mile infrastructure to bring fiber to cell towers. That is partly why middle mile strategies are factored into MCA’s overall strategy. You can review the last report on cellular coverage on the ConnectMaine website: https://www.maine.gov/connectme/about/annual-reports 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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