Jul 19, 2022

Maine's plan to expand rural broadband access advances with market analysis

A new program expected to bring high-speed internet connections to 22,500 households across Maine is taking a step forward with a market analysis of Maine’s broadband workforce.

A new program expected to bring high-speed internet connections to 22,500 households across Maine is taking a step forward with a market analysis of Maine’s broadband workforce.

The Maine Connectivity Authority has issued a request for proposals that may help the quasi-public agency better understand the state’s broadband labor gap and identify ways to address it.

Last week, the state learned it would receive $110 million in federal funds for Maine Infrastructure Ready, a competitive broadband infrastructure grant program administered by the authority. The goal is to connect families and businesses with poor and inadequate service, particularly those in rural and remote areas.

The RFP issued Tuesday is designed as a next step to take full advantage of the funding. Proposals are due by Aug. 23 at 11:59 p.m.

Through the project, the authority said, it hopes to understand the current broadband workforce and its needs, explore the education and training needed to fulfill them, and find ways of building a pipeline of qualified workers to support broadband deployment. The authority is seeking third-party consulting services to develop the analysis.

Maine ranks No. 45, sixth-worst, in a state-by-state comparison of internet access, according to U.S. News and World Report.

The authority, created last year, is also hiring for two new positions — a digital equity coordinator and a workforce development manager — to advance its workforce development and digital equity initiatives.

In September, the authority plans to begin a year-long process to create a digital equity plan for Maine. A request for proposals, to inventory and analyze current initiatives and programs, closed Tuesday.

In the coming week, the authority will request information from middle-mile service providers, internet service providers and Maine communities to collect information about their existing assets, needs and willingness to partner.