Connect the Ready Grants 

Program Description

Connect the Ready is a competitive grants program that will encourage proactive partnerships and collaborative efforts to design, fund, and build broadband infrastructure projects in eligible areas.

 

The program will optimize broadband deployment in mostly unserved communities and encourage projects that will expand universal broadband service throughout large un(der)served areas.

 

In addition to proactive identification of eligible project areas, MCA will collaborate with applicants on the scope of projects and readiness of project partners.

The MCA will continue refining this programming design based on feedback from partners and engagement activities.

Who is Eligible?

Public & private partners: internet service providers, or broadband utility districts, and other governmental entities that have chosen ISP partners. 

Funding Amount

We anticipate awarding up to $20 million from this fall application window, and the remainder in the next application window in early 2023.

Deadlines

Applications are due by November 9, 2022

MCA Contact

Stephenie MacLagan smaclagan@maineconnectivity.org
(207) 200-3197

Who is eligible to apply?

Eligible applicants are ready public & private partners: internet service providers, or broadband utility districts, and other governmental entities that have chosen ISP partners, and projects occur in partnership with communities that are ready to be connected with the chosen solution as the proposed project. MCA will encourage communities to partner with private entities and will require private applicants to gain the support of their proposed communities. Applicants must submit a formal expression of support from the leadership of the affected communities, and a memorandum of understanding between the parties will be required as a condition of the award prior to receipt of grant funds.

 

Partnerships on proposed projects that involve locally-funded infrastructure will include an operations agreement that covers maintenance, future connections, and upgrades. This agreement can be submitted as part of the application or as a condition of the award prior to receipt of grant funds.

 

Applicants must identify a point of contact for digital equity planning in the affected communities. Involved ISPs must meet eligibility requirements, including completion of annual required data filings.

Criteria & Priorities

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Eligible Areas
Connect the Ready areas are mostly unserved or underserved areas near existing middle-mile infrastructure. Applicants will select identified “Eligible Project Areas” where universal broadband is proposed. Proposed areas where the majority of locations currently have service of less than 25 / 3 Mbps will be preferred over other proposed areas.

Performance Standards

Connect the Ready projects will result in broadband service speeds of at least 100 / 100 Mbps unless demonstrated as unfeasible, but then not less than 100 / 20 Mbps. Projects that provide symmetrical gigabit service will be preferred over other proposed projects.


Minimum Financial Commitment
Connect the Ready Grants are the proportion of capital project cost remaining after financial commitments from the applicant and partners. A minimum financial commitment comes from the entity that will retain ownership of a majority of the proposed project assets. In the case of community-ownership, the source(s) of minimum financial commitment may be negotiated among the entities involved in the proposed project. Applicants may propose additional financial commitment from either the participating ISP or the community, which will result in a more competitive application. The minimum financial commitment is $700 per potential subscriber location in the proposed project, except that the minimum financial commitment is $500 per location based on income levels or local valuations in the proposed project area.


Affordability

Prices of offerings must be equal to or less than the price per subscriber location offered by the involved ISP elsewhere in the state. In addition to participation in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), MCA requires grant recipients to offer a service offering of at least 50/10mbps to those eligible for ACP at a price that is fully subsidized under the ACP, which as of January 2022 is $30 per month. The service offering of at least 100/20 Mbps must be priced no higher than the federal reasonable comparability benchmark for broadband rates as determined by the annual FCC Urban Rate Survey. Applications with a price lower than $60/month for the service offering of at least 100/100mbps will be more competitive.

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Key Dates

  • Engagement Session: August 15, 2022 (watch the recording)

  • Program Guidance Released: September 30, 2022

  • Application Opens: October 11, 2022

  • Applicant Webinar: October 14, 2022 (register here)

  • Application Deadline: November 9, 2022 at 11:59 pm

Funding Available

MCA will allocate $70 million from the ARPA Capital Projects Fund for these grants. Depending on the outcome of the five-year Maine Broadband Master Plan, MCA may continue to fund the Connect the Ready Grants under the BEAD program.

How to Apply

MCA will be launching a grants portal along with guidance documentation in the fall of 2022. We will continue refining this programming design based on summer engagement activities.

Other Resources

All-In Engagement Kickoff Webinar Recording

MCA recently hosted a virtual event where we shared additional program details and timelines, and collected stakeholder feedback as we continue to design programs.

Ask MCA Anything Virtual Engagement Event

MCA will be hosting a virtual AMA (Ask MCA Anything) engagement event where participants can pose questions for the MCA team. Please click below to register for the event.

Guidance for CPF Funds (US Dept Treasury)

This guidance provides a summary of project eligibility and terms and conditions, as well as information about the process for applying for a grant under the Capital Projects Fund program.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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