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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

This grant program will invest in new and existing community anchor institutions (CAIs) such as libraries, community centers, affordable housing developments, municipal or tribal buildings, and other gathering places that enable workforce training, education, and health monitoring for people most impacted by the digital divide. Grants between $250,000 and $2 million will be 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.

Sample Contract

Connectivity Hubs Application Process Update | May 1, 2024
A total of 15 applications have been submitted and are currently under review, representing a diverse range of counties, including Androscoggin, Aroostook, Cumberland, Franklin, Hancock, Knox, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, and Washington. Within this applicant pool, there are two tribal entities, seven 501(c)(3) organizations, and six municipalities, including two public school entities. Each applicant serves multiple covered populations, with a focus on individuals residing in rural areas. Additionally, they have expertise in delivering services to aging individuals, those facing language barriers, individuals with low literacy, members of racial or ethnic minorities, individuals with a disability, low-income households, incarcerated/formerly incarcerated individuals, and veterans.We have over $17M in requests for $11.8M in funding and will be selecting projects based on the criteria and scoring that we have shared in the guidance documentation.

Who is eligible to apply?

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.


How to Apply

The Connectivity Hub program is not an open competitive grant process. Potential applicants must be invited to apply.

 

STEP 1: To be invited, potential applicants should complete the Interest Form in the MCA grant portal by February 29, 2024. MCA staff will follow up by email or phone. The form will include organization, contact information, three sentences about the project concept and partners, and the facility's location, type, and ownership. Selected applicants will receive an email inviting them to begin the application.

 

STEP 2: Applicants must complete the online application in the MCA grant portal once invited. Applications submitted by March 29, 2024, will be reviewed and considered for the first grant round to be approved in May 2024. All other applications will be reviewed and approved on a rolling basis, should there be any remaining grants funds.

 

STEP 3: Proposals under review may receive technical assistance and support from MCA staff. MCA staff will notify applicants in April 2024 if they will be considered for approval in the initial grant round in May 2024. All other applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, and MCA staff will notify applicants if they will not be considered for award.

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

  • May 17, 2024 - Awards Approved by MCA Board (expect 6-8 weeks for contracting phase)

  • May 20, 2024 - Awards Announced

  • June 3, 2024 - Application Re-Opens on a Rolling Basis if Funds Remain

  • 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 $11.2 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.

Criteria & Priorities
How to Apply
Data Analysis
Key Dates
Funding Available
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