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Apr 29, 2024

Press Release: Maine Starts Challenge Process on Federal Data To Determine Where Broadband Dollars Will Go

PORTLAND – Maine is beginning a critical data collection and challenge process to determine where Maine’s $272 Million allocation through the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program can be deployed. BEAD is funded by part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and prioritizes delivering internet service to locations with no connection or with slow and unreliable access (speeds less than 100/20 Mbps).

The BEAD State Led Challenge Process represents the next step in unlocking Maine's BEAD funding and is a requirement of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the federal entity that oversees the BEAD Program.

Eligible challengers include local or Tribal governments, non-profit organizations, and internet service providers. The first phase of the process is an opportunity for eligible challengers to identify whether a location has service of at least 100/20 Mbps, or is a Community Anchor Institution, and can be funded through the BEAD Program. This phase began on April 26 and will be open through May 21, 2024.

“The State Led Challenge Process is crucial for accurately determining what locations can be served using the generational amount of grant funding that Maine will receive,” said Andrew Butcher, president of the Maine Connectivity Authority, the state agency responsible for distributing the BEAD funding. “The challenge process is a major step toward making sure that everyone in Maine who wants it has access to high-speed, quality internet.”

Individuals can also help MCA develop more accurate internet service data information by participating in a simple online speed test hosted on the MCA website. Each speed test challenge requires three separate speed tests on three different days. The speed test will be open until May 21, 2024.

“With access to broadband at stake for 30-40,000 homes and businesses, it’s important that local governments, nonprofits and internet service providers participate in the challenge process, and that individuals take a few moments to complete a speed test. The results will help to determine what communities can receive funding for broadband expansion,” Butcher said.

The Maine Connectivity Authority has developed a resource guide to help eligible challengers and the public navigate the process. The guide includes important dates and information on how to participate.

Following the process required by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), after the challenge phase, Internet Service Providers will have the opportunity to offer rebuttals to challenges. Finally, the Maine Connectivity Authority (MCA) will adjudicate challenges and rebuttals and, later this summer, will present a final list of locations to the Federal Government for ultimate review and approval.

In December 2023, MCA published an initial list of all served, unserved, underserved locations and Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs) in Volume 1 of Maine’s BEAD Initial Proposal. This list has since been refined, and the list of locations used to conduct the State Led Challenge Process is available on the MCA website.

The Federal Communications Commission Broadband Map is the starting point for determining locations eligible for BEAD Program funding. It is important to note that challenges made during the State-Led Challenge Process only determine eligibility for BEAD funding and will not necessarily be reflected on the FCC map without additional action.

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