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Apr 11, 2024

Press Release: Maine Connectivity Authority Partners With Nonprofits to Help Maine People Use Broadband

PORTLAND – The Maine Connectivity Authority is partnering with two nonprofit organizations to achieve the aggressive goals set in the state’s Digital Equity Plan and to break down the barriers that keep Maine people from using the internet.

The two contracts authorize funding up to $500,000 each to Give IT. Get It. and the National Digital Equity Center.

Give IT. Get IT. was founded as a 501(C)3 nonprofit organization in 2002 to increase technology access and digital skills of Maine residents. More than 130 businesses donate computers that are refurbished, repaired, and then made available at an affordable price for those who need them. The organization has built a certified electronics reuse and recycling system – the only third-party certified service of its kind in New England – to take all the electronics a business no longer needs and properly manage all of it.
The contract with MCA focuses on building capacity for the organization to increase the number of donated devices, expand the refurbishment team to ensure more devices can be given a new life, and increase efficiency in the program to distribute devices to more people.

The National Digital Equity Center, a 501(C)3 nonprofit, is a nationally recognized organization with a mission to close the digital divide. The contract will allow the nonprofit to hire and train three full-time digital skills instructors, increase current digital skills instructor hours, and hire and train a part-time outreach coordinator. This position will engage with organizations directly supporting underserved populations, such as low-income households, older adults, and individuals with a disability. The goal is to help Mainers improve their personal digital skills and confidence by offering digital skills assessments and individual learning plans.

“When it comes to securing high-quality, fast and affordable internet for every Mainer, investing in the wires that run down our roads is only part of the solution. We also need to make sure that all of us have access to affordable equipment and can learn the skills to connect confidently,” said Maggie Drummond-Bahl, Partnership Director for the Maine Connectivity Authority. “Give IT. Get IT. and the National Digital Equity Center are important partners in helping to ensure everyone can benefit from our connection.”

Maine was the first state in the country to have its Digital Equity plan approved by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The plan outlines the steps the state will take to expand access to high-speed, reliable internet and break down barriers to connections, especially for populations most impacted by the digital divide.

Maine Digital Equity Plan Strategies

The plan includes key strategies to reduce barriers to connectivity for those who are most underserved - including older adults, veterans, low-income families, people living in rural areas, people with disabilities, those with low literacy or language barriers, minority populations, and individuals who are currently or formerly incarcerated. Strategies outlined in the plan include:

Improve access to broadband through grant funding for local and regional infrastructure projects;
Sustain and grow Maine’s investment in digital equity by establishing the Maine Digital Equity Fund, which will raise $15 million in private capital to match federal funding.

Increase affordability of internet service, including increasing enrollment in the Affordable Connectivity Program, and expanding access to free or low-cost connectivity in affordable housing units;
Secure at least 25,000 donated devices for refurbishment from businesses, institutions, and agencies statewide;

Ensure access to affordable devices (desktops, laptops, tablets) and technical support by distributing 50,000 new and refurbished devices to Mainers who need them;

Improve Mainers’ digital skills through outreach and training;

Help Mainers stay safe online by providing internet safety training; and

Make it easier to access government resources and programs online.

While Maine and other states await further details about the federal funding available to implement these digital equity strategies, MCA is moving forward with early implementation in 2024. The partnerships with National Digital Equity Center and Give IT Get IT are two of several key investments being made this year, in addition to the first round of grants for the Connectivity Hubs program and support for Maine’s 13 Regional and Tribal Broadband Partners.

National Digital Equity Center
Susan Corbett, Founder and Executive Director

“The National Digital Equity Center is so pleased to partner with the Maine Connectivity Authority in providing digital inclusion resources, and ensuring that all Mainers can participate in our digital economy. We are pleased to be part of a growing ecosystem and collaborating with our many partners statewide. Together, we will continue working to close the digital divide for Maine and its people.”

Give IT Get IT
Chris Martin, Operations Director

“This support from Maines’ Connectivity Authority is a game changer for Give IT. Get IT. that will enable us to do in months, the things we've been working toward over the past 22 years. My team and I are excited to put these funds to work toward our capacity growth efforts so we can help even more Mainers achieve their employment, educational and wellness goals. We are grateful for MCA's leadership and partnership as we begin this exciting chapter to expand digital equity throughout Maine.”

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