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NEW Connectivity Hubs Program Awards! 

On June 28th, MCA's Board approved and ratified awards for over $12 million in grants funding improvements to community organizations across the state. Read the press release here.

Eligibility

Connectivity Hubs

Introduction

The digital divide disproportionately impacts covered populations and locations lacking high-speed internet. Simultaneously, organizations that serve covered populations often have limited resources and capacity. The lack of broadband infrastructure connected to or within community spaces to facilitate digital inclusion activities, such as telehealth appointments, contributes to the digital divide.

MCA Contact

Jessica Perez
jperez@maineconnectivity.org

(207) 200-4753

Sample Contract
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MCA's Connectivity Hubs Program will help community anchor institutions – such as libraries, community centers, municipal and tribal buildings, and affordable housing developments – provide workforce training, education and telehealth services in areas most impacted by a lack of access to high-speed internet. Grants between $250,000 and $2 million were awarded for capital improvements, such as facility construction and renovation, and essential assets like affordable devices for public access and lending programs. Through these improvements, there will be an increase in the number of organizations and communities engaging in digital equity work and reducing the digital divide.

On June 28, 2024, MCA's Board awarded over $12 million to 12 projects across the state. Projects will serve a mix of targeted audiences identified in Maine's Digital Equity Plan across the state, including eight counties with two projects serving Wabanaki Nations. 

Connectivity Hubs Program - 2024 Awards
 

  • Aroostook Agency on Aging | Presque Isle - $400,989

  • Bridgton Public Library | Bridgton - $250,000

  • Caribou Public Library | Caribou - $1,847,528 *

  • Franklin County Adult and Community Education | Farmington - $1,773,574

  • Hope Association | Rumford - $279,112 *

  • Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians | Houlton - $1,247,639

  • Indian Township Tribal Government | Passamaquoddy Tribe at Motahkomikuk - $545,612

  • Mano en Mano | Milbridge - $1,784,497

  • St. George Municipal School Unit | Tenants Harbor - $684,715

  • Seniors Plus | Lewiston - $900,000

  • Town of Stonington | Stonington - $1,753,420

  • YWCA Central Maine | Lewiston - $651,928

* Conditional awards

Program Eligibility

The Connectivity Hub grant program prioritizes communities and people who will most benefit from the presence of Connectivity Hubs in their area, including unserved locations as defined by the Broadband Equity, Access & Deployment Program (BEAD) and covered populations. This prioritization will advance MCA’s goal to ensure that all Maine residents, communities, businesses and institutions are able to take full advantage of the economic, health, and educational opportunities made available through affordable and reliable high-speed internet. Eligible applicants include organizations, agencies, and institutions that can undergo capital improvements to increase connectivity and digital equity while enabling work, education, and health monitoring. This grant will not fund overhead or programmatic costs, nor will the grant be open to traditional schools or hospitals that do not enable the broader activities of work, education, and health monitoring. 

Applicants must be a 501c3 non-profit organization or a community, municipal, county, state or tribal government entity.

  • One organization may be a lead applicant, coordinating other partners which are engaged in the project and programming that may be offered through a project. 

  • The applicant or lead applicant must either 1) own the building or 2) have a lease agreement that extends at least five years after project completion.

  • Applicants leasing the property must provide a letter of support from the property owner.

Program Criteria & Priorities

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Target populations most impacted by the digital divide

Projects must provide these programs and services primarily or exclusively to individuals defined as “covered populations'' by the Digital Equity Act. These include:  

    • Low-income households

    • Older adults (60+)

    • Incarcerated individuals or individuals in reentry

    • Veterans

    • Individuals with disabilities

    • Individuals who are English-language learners or have low literacy

    • Individuals who are members of racial and ethnic minority groups

    • Rural inhabitants

Note: other populations not named in the Digital Equity Act that face substantial barriers to digital equity may also be considered, for example unhoused individuals and individuals in long term recovery from substance use disorder.

Invest in infrastructure to improve digital access in communities 

Projects will invest in world-class facilities to provide public access to high speed internet through devices for public use and lending programs, addressing the barriers of available and affordable high speed internet service and devices. Facilities in areas with high percentages of people who are not connected or unserved by MCA definitions (<50/10 Mbps), facilities in areas that lack other nearby accessible Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs), and facilities in locations which could connect to existing or planned Middle Mile routes will be prioritized.

  • Projects must provide or outline plans in their applications to provide broadband internet access (100/100 Mbps).

  • Projects must provide access to devices for use on-site and/or for loaning, and on-site technical support.

  • Projects must be open to the public or must exclusively or primarily serve covered populations (above). The facility must be no cost or low cost to access. In the case of the latter, the applicant must provide a justification for how its fees meet the “low-cost” criteria.

  • Projects must include plans for ensuring the facility is in full code compliance, including ADA accessibility.

Maximize resources offered to ensure economic, social and health opportunities available through connectivity services

Projects must offer programming or facilitate activities in the areas of education, work, and health monitoring as defined by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in its “Guidance for the Coronavirus Capital Funds Project Fund.” Projects must demonstrate that these programs or facilitated activities can be sustained for a minimum of five years beyond the completion of the project.

  • Schools & Hospitals: To be eligible for this funding, schools and hospitals must provide services that enable work, education, and health monitoring above and beyond their traditional functions (CPF Guidance, p. 7).  Schools are eligible if they “provide a comprehensive academic program to their students and adult education in the community at large; health monitoring to their students and the community; and workforce training or career counseling services that provide community members with the knowledge needed to engage in work, including digital literacy training programs,” (CPF Guidance, p. 6).  Hospitals must similarly provide community services in the areas of work, education, and health monitoring that extend beyond their patient population.


Data Analysis

MCA has conducted spatial analysis to examine where the areas are of greatest need for a Connectivity Hub. This analysis factors in many of the program criteria and priorities to identify areas that align accordingly. The result includes a map of the ultimate result, the “combined composite index”, and as well as maps that show areas with higher need based on specific and combined demographic characteristics (social vulnerability) and geographic (proximity) characteristics.


We encourage organizations to look at the key results as well as maps that may be relevant to their projects. For example, those considering projects that serve veterans should be sure to examine the map that shows where higher concentrations of veterans live.

Composite Index map

The Connectivity Hubs program will score applicants on various priorities, one of which is reaching locations with the highest numbers of people with no or poor internet. MCA conducted an analysis to score towns from 0-2 points based on the number of locations in each town that are considered as having "no connection" or being "unserved". Use the spreadsheet linked below to search for your town and see how your application will be scored on this metric. (Calculation figures are greyed out but available so that they are visible to anyone who might want to look in more detail.)

Key Dates

A first round of grants will be awarded in May 2024, and applications will be invited, accepted, and approved on a rolling basis thereafter until funding is expended.

 

Application Timeline

  • Dec 1, 2023 - Interest Form Opens

  • December 4, 2023 - General Info Session (Recording Here)

  • January 19, 2024 - Application Opens

  • January 22, 2024 - Incorporating Telehealth Into Your Project Info Session (Slides HereRecording Here)

  • February 9, 2024 - Info Session on Updated Program Guidance (Slides HereRecording Here)

  • February 29, 2024 - Interest Form Closes

  • March 29, 2024 - Application Closes

  • June 28, 2024 - Awards Approved by MCA Board (expect 6-8 weeks for contracting phase)

  • June 28, 2024 - Awards Announced

  • Oct/Nov 2024 - Estimated final date for MCA Board approval of Connectivity Hub projects

  • December 20, 2024 - All approved grantees need to have fully executed grant contracts

Funding Available

The total funding available for the Connectivity Hub grant program is $11.8 million. MCA expects to award between 16-20 projects in total, in 2024 and 2025. All projects must be completed by August 31, 2026.  Grant sizes will range from $250,000 to $2,000,000, with a minimum grant size of $250,000 and a maximum grant size of $2,000,000. This range enables a variety of projects, from building renovations and technology improvements to new construction. Awardees must meet all quarterly and other reporting requirements throughout the duration of the project, upon completion, and in annual reporting requirements for five years after completion. The Connectivity Hubs Program is funded through the ARPA Capital Projects Funds from the U.S. Department of Treasury.

Criteria & Priorities
Data Analysis
Key Dates
Funding Available
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