Enable Middle-Mile Partnerships
Enabling Middle-Mile Partnerships will develop new strategic routes and acquire access to middle-mile fiber infrastructure to enable last-mile broadband networks. These assets will enable connectivity in some of the most substantially unserved and underserved parts of Maine and improve the availability, cost, and resiliency of middle-mile services. This program will also optimize MCA's investment in these regions by focusing on the most strategic routes that will enable higher quality last-mile service in the short-term and will boost our long-term goal of upgrading Maine's internet infrastructure.
The MCA will continue refining this programming design based on feedback from partners and engagement activities.
Who is Eligible?
Public and private owners and operators of middle-mile and last-mile infrastructure
Updated timelines will be released soon.
Who is eligible to apply?
Late this year, the MCA will issue a request for proposals from public and private owners and operators of middle-mile and last-mile infrastructure to leverage these resources.
Criteria & Priorities
Enabling Middle-Mile Partnerships will rely on knowledge of existing middle-mile networks in Maine and involve outreach to network operators. Identified areas will have large clusters of unserved locations (including offshore islands) without existing middle-mile infrastructure.
Enabling Middle-Mile Partnerships will principally develop multi-use, fiber-optic networks with sufficient capacity to be used for last-mile connections on an open-access basis, resulting in:
Service to community anchor institutions
Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) service to potential subscriber locations along the route
Expansion of those FTTP networks in the region through interconnected lateral routes
Service to mobile and fixed wireless networks
Other middle-mile transport services.
Enabling Middle-Mile Partnerships may also result in facilitating new last-mile connections by funding: strategically-placed equipment colocation and interconnection shelters along the route, dark fiber IRUs to major regional internet POPs, fiber or high-capacity microwave links to offshore islands.
New last-mile connections must result in broadband service offerings of at least 100/100 Mbps. Anchor institutions must be connected and offered service that meets performance standards. MCA will continue refining this programming design based on summer engagement activities: Proposals of symmetrical gigabit service will be preferred. If 100/100 Mbps service is demonstrated as unfeasible, MCA will consider service of 100/20 Mbps. MCA may consider proposals including the deployment of wireless services with no cost-effective options for offering at least this level of performance, but will favor proposals that offer service of at least 100/20 Mbps. Such proposals will only be considered with remaining funds available.
Minimum Financial Commitment
Funded projects will be those that maximize value and broadband impact to last mile. MCA will continue refining this programming design based on summer engagement activities: Partners in the service provider roles will receive low-cost, long-term access to MCA facilities in return for benefits that include providing open access connectivity services, especially to bring service to unserved areas along and adjacent to MCA fiber and microwave routes, covering operating and maintenance costs of the network, providing MCA access to existing fiber facilities controlled by the partner, and providing part of the capital cost of the project.
Prices of last-mile service 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 last-mile providers 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.
Program Design Complete: 2022
Program Launch: 2023
RFP Open: 2023
RFP Deadline: 2023
In addition to the MCA's application to the NTIA Middle-Mile Grant Program, MCA will allocate $30 million from the ARPA Capital Projects Fund for middle-mile partnerships that result in new fiber infrastructure and access to existing infrastructure that enables last-mile connections.
Please note: MCA is concurrently applying to the NTIA Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program, which will facilitate a more sustainable comprehensive internet ecosystem throughout the State. Because the program is competitive, MCA is not guaranteed to win all, or any, of the requested grant. Depending on the five-year Maine Broadband Master Plan, MCA may also support Middle-Mile Partnerships under the BEAD program.
How to Apply
This fall, MCA will seek proposals for new middle-mile infrastructure or access to infrastructure, identifying the last-mile connections that will result. MCA will review proposals and negotiate partnerships that maximize value and broadband impact to last mile. MCA will continue refining this programming design and proposal process based on feedback and engagement activities.