Nov 10, 2022

Maine Connectivity Authority Convenes Key Partners to
Propose Open-Access Middle Mile Fiber Broadband Network

$53 Million proposal for a 530-mile middle mile network submitted to
NTIA’s Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program

AUGUSTA, ME – The Maine Connectivity Authority (MCA) recently joined with key partners and applied for $30 million in competitive funding from the National Telecommunications Information Administration's (NTIA) Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program. Middle mile infrastructure is the regional fiber optic infrastructure made up of high-capacity fiber that carries large amounts of data at high speeds over long distances and between various elements of telecommunications infrastructure. Maine’s application proposes $53 million to construct the Maine Online Optical Statewide Enabling Network (MOOSE Net).

“This proposal would provide a critical investment to our state’s fiber networks, building a reliable and resilient backbone that will power the future of Maine’s broadband expansion and help us achieve affordable universal service for all Mainers,” said MCA President Andrew Butcher.

MOOSE Net’s expansion would deploy open-access fiber "highways" that provide an essential backbone network to enable last-mile providers to increase their coverage, help fortify digital infrastructure to prevent outages, and advance the competitiveness of rural communities. MOOSE Net covers 131 communities, representing over 11,000 unserved residents and local businesses. It will reach more than 200 community anchor institutions, including schools, hospitals, libraries, local government buildings, and civic centers.

The University of Maine System (UMS) was one of the partners involved with the proposal. David Demers, Chief Information Officer for UMS (and an ex-officio MCA board member), shared, “A successful application will help expand a middle-mile network across the state, decreasing overall costs while providing Mainers with added educational opportunities, increased job availability, and greater access to healthcare.”

In addition to UMS, the proposal was developed in collaboration with partners, including NetworkMaine, the Maine Department of Transportation, Consolidated Communications, and other leading statewide internet service providers and telecommunication companies. It contained more than 40 letters of support from various sectors, including large employers, ISPs, regional partners, communities and many others. These partners are providing a mix of cash and in-kind support (e.g., access to telecommunications infrastructure, staff, and equipment) to best position MOOSE Net for success and rapid deployment. This input has been vital in identifying where MOOSE Net can best reduce the cost of connecting the unserved and underserved to the internet backbone and promote network resiliency that will reduce the risk of single points of failure.

Executive Director of Networkmaine Jeff Letourneau commented, ”As we strive to provide Maine’s research & education community with high-performance network connectivity essential for innovation, collaboration, and economic growth, the development of MOOSE Net will help us connect the state’s community anchor institutions with affordable and reliable Internet access.”

Combined with last-mile infrastructure projects that can be funded through MCA’s All-In Programming that builds on this and existing networks, MCA is committed to ensuring the entire state has access to high-speed broadband connectivity. Just as rural electrification was revolutionary in the 1940s, high-speed and affordable internet access, facilitated through projects like MOOSE Net, will have a similarly transformational impact in Maine. As one of the most rural states, Maine has unique challenges in providing high-speed broadband access to all citizens.

“This proposal gives ISPs like us the power to expand our existing networks, connecting thousands of unserved and underserved areas with crucial broadband internet,” said Erik Garr, President of Fidium Fiber. “We look forward to continuing to work with MCA through this effort and their other last mile grants and line extension programs.”

Maine's low population density and rural geography make it difficult to attract the same private middle mile investment that other states have seen over the past two decades. MOOSE Net would facilitate affordable broadband access to thousands of households along the route and ensure Maine has the 21st-century broadband infrastructure businesses need to thrive and grow.

Additional Resources:

High-resolution map of the proposed network - https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UrJTaJOYF5s0ZKuvPmKpkZbi-i5U-Ljk/view

MCA Middle Mile page - http://maineconnectivity.org/middle-mile