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Digital Equity Initiatives

Introduction

MCA is working to advance digital equity for all: to ensure that all Mainers, especially those that are most impacted by the digital divide, have access to and are able to use, information and communications technologies so they can fully realize all of the civic, economic, health, educational, social and other benefits that they provide.

MCA Contact


Maggie Drummond-Bahl
Strategic Partnership Director
mbahl@maineconnectivity.org

(207) 209-3841

What is MCA doing?

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Maine leads the nation with the first approved statewide Digital Equity Plan

Faced with the opportunity for unprecedented funding, Maine Connectivity Authority facilitated the integrated development of a Digital Equity and Broadband Action Plan in coordination with stakeholders around the state. The state's first Digital Equity Plan plan outlines the steps the state will take to expand access to high-speed, reliable internet and break down barriers to connections, especially for populations most impacted by the digital divide. Its approval is the first step for Maine to qualify for Digital Equity Act funding, resulting in an estimated allocation between $12 million and $14 million. The allocations and details will be released by NTIA later this spring.

Digital Equity Plan Screenshot

Digital Equity Plan Strategies

The plan includes key strategies to reduce barriers to connectivity for those who are most underserved - including older adults, veterans, low-income families, people living in rural areas, people with disabilities and minority populations. Strategies outlined in the plan include:
 

  1. Improve access to broadband through grant funding for local and regional infrastructure projects;

  2. Sustain and grow Maine’s investment in digital equity by establishing the Maine Digital Equity Fund, which will raise $15 million in philanthropic support and be matched by additional investment from the federal government.

  3. Increase affordability of internet service, including increasing enrollment in the Affordable Connectivity Program, and expanding access to free or low-cost connectivity in affordable housing units;

  4. Secure at least 25,000 donated devices for refurbishment from businesses, institutions, and agencies statewide;

  5. Ensure access to affordable devices (desktops, laptops, tablets) and technical support by distributing 50,000 new and refurbished devices to Mainers who need them;

  6. Improve Mainers’ digital skills through outreach and training;

  7. Help Mainers stay safe online by providing internet safety training;

  8. Make it easier to access government resources and programs online; and

The Digital Equity Planning Process

Through the planning process, the Maine Connectivity Authority identified several key challenges that need to be addressed to close the digital divide, including a focus on the affordability of service, access to internet-capable devices, digital skills, and online safety training. 
 

To create this plan, MCA and its partners conducted significant outreach and engagement between January and June 2023. Six stakeholder groups comprising 117 individuals, organizations, and agencies contributed to the engagement process. Additionally, three formal tribal consultations were held with the chiefs of the Mi’kmaq Nation, the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Sipayik, and the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Motahkomikuk. The statewide Maine Broadband Survey collected over 3,200 responses online and in hard copy versions and was translated into 12 languages. Thirteen focus groups were facilitated by MCA and hosted by organizations that serve or represent the priority populations. An additional 16 community meetings were held around the state to collect feedback from the general public. We are greatly appreciative of all the insightful comments and helpful feedback that was provided by the people of Maine!

Digital Equity Task Force

MCA's Digital Equity Taskforce supported the development of Maine's Digital Equity Plan, and will guide an equitable planning process that engages effectively with Maine people and communities. The taskforce is broadly representative of people and communities that face greater barriers to connectivity.  

Digital Equity Task Force Members include:

Susan Corbett (National Digital Equity Center)

Bridget Campbell (Disability Rights Maine)
Noel Bonam (AARP Maine)

Mufalo Chitam (Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition)
Dan Coyne (United Way of Southern Maine)
Nakia Dana (Passamaquoddy Tribe of Indian Township)
Jim Darroch (Give
IT. Get IT.)
Melissa Denbow (Machias Saving
s Bank)
Megan Dichter (Maine Department of Education )
Cindy Farrington (Maine Resident Services Coord Assoc.)
Sara Gagne-Holmes (Maine DHHS)
Kendall Penndorf (Good Shepherd Food Bank)

Elizabeth Gattine (Cabinet on Aging)
Joshua Howe (Maine Community College System)
Jess Irish (Bath Housing Authority)
Erik Jorg
ensen (Maine Housing Authority)

Len Kaye (University of Maine, Center on Aging)
Bruce King (Maine Inside Out)

Beth Lambert (Maine Department of Education)

Calvin Lewis (ZRO Gravity)
Danielle Louder (NE Telehealth Resource Center)
Jess Maurer (Maine Council on Aging)

Angela Okafor (Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous, & Tribal Populations)
Rilwan Osman (Maine Immigrant and Refugee Services)
Jason Parent (Aroostook County Action Program)
Mia Purcell (Community Concepts)
Sarah Sherman (Maine Bureau of Veterans Services)
Megan Shore (Elmina B Sewall Foundation)
Lisa Sockabasin (Wabanaki Public Health & Wellness)
Lindsay Thrall (EverNorth)
Ruben Torres (Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition)
Julia Trujilloluengo (Maine DECD)
Charlene Virgilio (Four Directions Development Corporation)
Marijke Visser (Maine State Library)
Tobin Williamson (Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition)
Charlie Woodworth (Greater Franklin Economic and Community Development)

Digital Inclusion Week logo

October 2-6, 2023

Digital Inclusion Week (DIW) is an annual week of awareness, recognition, and celebration, and this year falls on October 2-6. Organized by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) and its 1,400+ affiliates nationwide, DIW raises awareness and promotes action for digital equity solutions. 

 

This year, MCA highlighted solutions for affordable internet access, appropriate devices, and digital skills programs around the state on social media and through our communications channels. Highlights included partner spotlights, nominated Digital Inclusion Stars, and features on the covered populations as defined by the Digital Equity Act of 2021.

DIW social post
DIW social post
DIW social post
DIW social post

Other Resources

Affordable Connectivity Program

The Affordable Connectivity Program is an FCC benefit program that helps ensure that households can afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare and more.

National Digital Equity Center

The NDEC provides communities at all levels the expertise needed to mobilize broadband technologies through digital inclusion, literacy efforts, education, resource planning, funding research, infrastructure leveraging and stakeholder engagement.

Maine Broadband Coalition

MBC is a network of public policy wonks, educational advocates, businesses, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and individuals who care deeply about Maine’s digital future and believe in the power of community-driven broadband planning.

Maine State
Library

The Maine State Library helps people, makes Maine libraries stronger and transforms information into knowledge. 

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Press Release: MCA Partners With Nonprofits to Help Maine People Use Broadband

MCA has recently made investments into the National Digital Equity Center and give IT get IT to achieve goals set out in Maine's Digital Equity Plan. Read the press release here!

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