Middle Mile Initiative

What is middle mile?

 

Middle mile is the regional fiber optic infrastructure that enables last mile internet connectivity to homes, businesses, and other users at the local level. It is made up of high-capacity fiber that carries large amounts of data at high speeds over long distances and other telecommunications infrastructure (e.g. points of presence, community anchor institutions, etc.) that act as "off-ramps" that connect middle mile fiber to local networks that directly serve various users.  

What is the problem?

Maine's existing internet infrastructure is a patchwork of individual private networks. The middle mile infrastructure supporting these networks were generally not created to support the goal of universal broadband access throughout the state. While public and private investments over the last decade, including notably the federally-funded Three Ring Binder, have added essential infrastructure to support this goal, the job is not done. Too many areas of Maine remain un- or under-served. 

We need your feedback and input to best shape our Middle Mile Initiative. 

A solution?

New strategic infrastructure supported by the Maine Connectivity Authority can bridge this gap. New networks and access points will serve as digital highways and on-ramps to connect un- and under-served areas. Once built, non-discriminatory, open-access internet infrastructure can be accessed by any local internet service provider or wholesale customer, who can then directly connect to individual homes and businesses, connect to a cell tower to provide better wireless service, or provide a dedicated high-speed connections for data-intensive businesses.

The MCA's solution to this problem should be guided by the following principles:

  1. No traffic leaves Maine that does not need to.

  2. Reduce or eliminate competitive bottlenecks.

  3. Increase resilience by eliminating single points of failure.

  4. Investments should be financially sustainable and not require ongoing public subsidy.

  5. Provide long-term assurance for open access and non-discrimination. 

To achieve this goal, the Maine Connectivity Authority will facilitate shared internet infrastructure throughout the state (e.g., middle mile fiber, data centers, points of presence, and internet exchange points). The Maine Connectivity Authority will explore numerous options to build and finance this state-of-the-art infrastructure, including through public investment and support, private partnerships, and other innovative strategies. 

Seeking Assistance: Middle Mile Broadband Consultant

 

The MCA is in need of market and technology expertise to guide and facilitate projects from planning to deployment and is seeking proposals from qualified, independent consultants to assist the MCA in these efforts.

 

The MCA is seeking applicants that are well versed in detailed market, technical, and financial aspects of the various technologies that can be deployed, as well as applicants that can provide general consultation for other efforts related to middle mile infrastructure as needed by the MCA.

The Request for Proposal is available below. Applications are due no later than 06/17/2022 at 11:59 PM. 

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RFP Frequenty Asked Questions

For the format of submission, would a PowerPoint presentation in PDF be allowed?

Yes.

 

Is there a maximum length limit or any other parameters we should be aware of in terms of the document itself? 

No, there is no maximum limit in terms of page numbers for the Proposal. The only requirement is that the Proposal satisfy all the requirements spelled out in Part III.

 

Please clarify if the MCA is planning to share any additional supporting documents as part of the process to accompany Appendix B – for example, any specific rural communities that it already identified for rural exchanges that we will want to validate. Or, that the level of detail provided in Appendix B is what has been determined to-date.

We do not anticipate sharing any additional documents before Proposals are due on Friday, June 17. However, the selected consultant would receive additional input from the MCA post-award to guide the selected consultant in its analysis and fulfilment of the Services.

 

Are there any bounds or parameters in terms of how the MCA would like to commercialize the project that we should be aware of, or are all potential models in play? For example, partnering with a third party private operator, operating the infrastructure and monetizing directly via wholesale agreements with lager potential customers, establishing “retail-like” sales model ran organically (particularly relevant for carrier neutral data center infrastructure), etc.

The MCA is currently open to various approaches to commercialize the project as long as they satisfy federal government requirements (e.g., offering access on an open access basis, non-discrimination, etc.) and expects the preferred approach(es) to be informed by the selected consultant's findings.

 

In terms of technical work, what level of depth is expected for this stage of assessment? Is MCA expecting high-level cost estimation or granular engineering? 

At this stage, the MCA only expects high-level cost estimation to guide the prioritization of its time and resources. The MCA expects to either expand the scope of the selected consultant or to procure an additional third-party engineering and/or construction firm to help it conduct more granular engineering when appropriate (and depending on the commercialization effort pursued).   

 

Will the MCA also be submitting applications for BEAD and Digital Equity programs or will that fall under a different agency? 

The MCA plans to submit applications for BEAD and Digital Equity programs. We note that the scope of this RFP is focused primarily on the state's middle mile and backhaul needs, although the performed Services may inform those applications.

 

We note the request to include assistance in determining viability of this project towards Middle Mile NOFO (as well as any other applicable federal and/or state funding programs). Beyond these near-term grant priorities, would MCA want us to propose on broader strategy in terms of government funding as it relates to this project? For example, analyzing the impact of this middle-mile initiative on last mile subsidy availability and competition as part of IIJA? 

The MCA’s primary objective is to establish an appropriate scaled middle mile strategy that enables affordable reliable last mile connectivity and for the growth and evolution of the state's digital infrastructure.  Recommendations and support for the NTIA NOFO and braiding complimentary funding streams are integral to strategic recommendations.  

 

Will the selected consultant be precluded from bidding on resulting engineering and/or construction RFPs associated with this program? 

No, an Applicant to this RFP for a Middle Mile Broadband Consultant will not be precluded from applying to or participating in resulting engineering and/or construction RFPs from the MCA associated with this program in the future.

   

Do you expect there to be any subsequent phases/involvement requiring support from the selected consultant following the initial 2- to 3-month project?  

We expect that the scope of subsequent phases/involvement will be based on the selected consultant's findings. We anticipate that the MCA will need additional support for engineering and/or construction work to fulfill its middle mile strategy.

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