MCA is Making an Impact!
The Maine Connectivity Authority (MCA) is designing a comprehensive program that will meet the State’s long-term connectivity needs, provide critical education and training, and connect everyone in Maine with affordable, reliable, and world-class internet.
Starting with $150M in funding from the Maine Jobs and Recovery Program and the American Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Funds, the MCA is going all-in to advance solutionat at scale. The first phase of programming is expected to launch in the fall of 2022 and will focus on the following principles.
Maine will connect 20,000 new locations by expanding services in the most remote places of Maine’s most rural counties and by forging new public-private partnerships to ensure last mile connections in places that were not previously economically viable. These last mile connections will be supported by investments in middle mile infrastructure that will serve the state for decades to come.
Affordability: Maine will require all ISP recipients to take part in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Those participants will offer a $30/month plan to qualifying individuals (households?) that meets the state definition of broadband service at 50/10 Mbps.
Adoption: Maine will decrease barriers to broadband deployment by providing technical assistance, advancing community-driven solutions at a regional scale, and supporting educational, training and employment opportunities.
The Maine Connectivity Authority aims to reach the last mile with three strategies:
In addition to the private sector’s efforts to design and deploy their own projects, local communities and counties have been planning for broadband with digital equity goals in mind. The grants program will continue to support these local and regional projects.
Part of reaching the last mile includes outlying roads and locations that weren’t part of expanding broadband networks.
Finally, by addressing middle-mile infrastructure needs, the expansion of last-mile connectivity can occur more quickly and cost-effectively.
As of February 2021, more than 12% of the state lacked even basic internet service, and no more than 18% likely had access to 21st century internet service:
Unserved - 12%
Underserved - 70%
Served - 18%
The industry and communities have submitted broadband service availability data to be reviewed along with new data being submitted through this fall. By the end of 2022, the Maine Connectivity Authority aims to publish a public viewer of the Broadband Intelligence Platform, to communicate locations that are eligible for support and to scope potential deployments. The Broadband Intelligence Platform continues to help the state make data-driven decisions. Take a speed test for Maine!
Funding to Date
While the state estimated the cost of universal broadband to be $600 million prior to the pandemic, this cost is shared among local, county and state governments, private citizens and federal programs, and private sector investments. To leverage investments in broadband expansion, the state grants program has encouraged significant financial commitments on the part of applicants. This has kept the cost-benefit of state funds toward projects reaching the unserved and underserved to about $2,000 per location. In addition to the $15 million state broadband bond, about $6 million of coronavirus relief funds were deployed since 2020, the state was awarded $28 million from NTIA, and another $10 million from the Capital Projects Fund have been dedicated to broadband infrastructure.
List sources + dollars here
2020 State Broadband Bond $15 million
2020 Coronavirus Relief Funds $6.2 million
2021 NTIA Grant and ConnectMaine Fund $27.4 million
2022 ARPA Capital Projects Fund $8.2 million
The federal government is determining the full amount of funds under the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act that will come to Maine. Meanwhile, communities can be planning for broadband. The Maine Connectivity Authority looks forward to investing in more Connect the Ready projects. Simultaneously, other programs and task forces are launching, which will help identify and test strategies for successfully achieving universal broadband in Maine.
Where can we propose a project? Are there preferred areas?
Eligible project areas can be found on the provided map. Preferred areas are those where geography, topography, population density, poverty level, and/or lack of enabling infrastructure create disadvantageous commercial investment conditions.
Providers believing that eligible areas are served to a level of reliable service greater than 25/3 are encouraged to send maps documenting that service to MCA to be considered during project selection.
Will GIS data be made available?
Target areas are those where service level is estimated to be at or below 25/3 mbps and where wired deployments are currently impractical. When the application is posted, a map showing target areas and other features will be shared with potential applicants. The GIS data behind the map isn’t publicly available at this time. Please note, while you are preparing possible deployment scopes, that there will be a heavy preference for projects that provide service in areas that are least likely to receive commercial investment.
The Eligibility Map has been updated to include non-satellite RDOF winners, to remove towns with funded projects (Roque Bluffs, Monhegan Island, Arrowsic), and to add a previously overlooked town: Bradford. Other federal grant programs have not been considered for this map due to minimum-speed requirements being below 25/3, but maps of those programs can be found HERE.