Maine Connectivity Authority Opportunities

Following is a current list of Request for Proposals or Request for Information documents from the Maine Connectivity Authority. Please click the link to read the details for each request.

Request for Proposal: Digital Equity Research Partner

Due date: December 16, 2022 at 11:59pm ET

Summary:  MCA is seeking assistance in designing and implementing a research process and product as a key part of the planning process and plan development as well as ongoing evaluation of MCA’s investments in broadband and digital equity. We are seeking a research partner (or partners if necessary) to oversee and execute the delivery of the services listed below. Recognizing that a single partner might not be able to deliver all services listed, we expect that the primary partner will subcontract with others when appropriate. MCA will also accept RFP responses for single elements of the scope outlined below. Timeframes noted are projected service start dates. Work in each area is expected to continue beyond the dates listed.

Digital Equity Research Partner FAQs

Q: For the survey, are there preferred population stratifications? That is, would you like the sampling to focus on specific sub-populations (e.g., rural, older adults, African Americans)?

A: Yes. We would like to survey the general public but also focus specifically on the "covered populations" from the Digital Equity Act.  We would be interested in any regional differences as well, for example survey responses might lead us to slightly different strategies in Aroostook County vs. Cumberland and York Counties.


Q. Will the State of Maine, in the survey administration, be identified as the sponsor? For example, will language in the survey that says something like: "This survey is being conducted on behalf of the State of Maine ..." be possible?

A. Yes, the survey can be branded as being conducted by the state of Maine and we may also be able to co-brand with partners in different regions and from the Digital Equity Taskforce where that co-branding might be a trusted or familiar partner to people filling out the survey.  Same idea for the focus groups.


Q. For the survey of affordable housing residents, will the state provide the sample? That is, does the state have a list of households in affordable housing (and contact information) so that a survey can contact them for the survey?

A. We have access to the network of affordable housing providers as well as the resident services staff across the state, and strong partners in affordable housing within our Digital Equity Taskforce including Maine Housing.  We will have addresses and in some cases contact information from Education Superhighway's data for building owners/managers.  But no, I don't believe we will have direct residents’ contact information.


Q. For the focus groups, are there particular groups you would like to have convened for the focus groups?

A. Yes. We want the focus groups to be done with the covered populations because our digital equity plans need to specifically look at barriers for those populations and identify strategies and measurable goals related to those strategies for each covered population.  


Q. How many focus groups do you have in mind? 

A. We would like some advice from our research partner about what number will give us meaningful data to work with.  We have partner grant funding for digital equity taskforce members to provide capacity for them to help us organize and convene the groups and really need the research partner to design the content and process we can employ in those settings.  


Q. Is there a preference for in-person focus groups or virtual ones? 

A. It may depend a bit on the particular covered population we're targeting, but in most cases I think the preference will be for in person focus groups because these are populations that we're assuming may face more barriers to getting connected and may not easily be reached with a virtual focus group.  


Q. For the research to be conducted pursuant to the RFP, will the research products be (at some point at least) released to the general public? 

A. Yes, in some form to be determined in partnership with staff, research partner, and our communications team (internal staff and external contracted partner).  We have been working on a broadband intelligence platform and have a vision of being able to release a "public viewer" that would include data produced by the research partner along with digital equity asset inventory and ACP enrollment, etc. We'd like to be as transparent as possible with the data and analysis that we have.  Additionally, a summary report would be really helpful.


Q. Is there a way for you to describe the reporting requirements to the State for winning vendors? 

A. We are not yet sure.  The funding source are planning grants from the Digital Equity Act and BEAD (Broadband Equity Access and Deployment) so the reporting requirements will be determined by MCA’s reporting requirements on those grants to NTIA.

Q. What are the evaluation/scoring criteria and methodology that will be used to evaluate and rank proposals? 
A. We will be evaluating proposals based the strength of the team taking into account demonstrated previous experience including similar types of research projects/analysis, the ability to move quickly within our planning deadlines, and reasonable cost.  


Q. Will this project be funded by a portion or all of the State's Digital Equity planning funds? Will any other funding sources (e.g., BEAD, CPF, private sources) be used?

A. The project will be funded partly by DE planning grant funds, and partly by BEAD planning grant funds. 


Q. During what days is the MCA closed for winter holidays?

A. Though our office will be closed during the week between Christmas and the New Year, 26th-30th, I (& other key staff as needed) will be available that week if that is the best time for a kick-off meeting.  


Q. Will the awarded contractor be responsible for building or updating maps independently from the maps created by MCA's geospatial team?

A. We don't believe so; our current assumption is that MCA is going to be able to produce a public viewer platform and that all data and analysis will be integrated into that platform.  


Q. The timeline for the surveys and focus groups is December 2022 to March 2023. This is the heart of winter in Maine, when snow frequently makes driving risky. Many potential focus group participants may be deterred from participating by the risks of driving. Is it possible for MCA to extend the timeline for focus groups to include the months of April and May, when driving is easier?

A. We are constrained by the timeline of our planning process determined by NTIA; our goal is to have a draft plan to release for public comment by June 1 so that it can be submitted in July.  That said, we may be able to get creative, holding virtual focus groups when necessary or stretching our timeline into April.


Q. On page 6 of the RFP, it says the Digital Equity Research Partner should “design and work with partner organizations to conduct focus groups.” Can you expand on who these partner organizations are, and the nature of their commitment to help with the project? Do they overlap with the membership of Maine’s Digital Equity Task Force?

A. The primary partners are those represented on the Digital Equity Taskforce, and funding to support their capacity (where needed) for survey and focus group implementation has been included in the digital equity planning grant.


Q. Do you know whether any rules attached to the funding source prohibit them to be spent on compensation for focus group participants? What about survey respondents?

A. We would have to look closely at this, particularly for surveys, but we did include in our budget stipends for focus group participants.


Q. The project timeline specifies that survey and focus group research should begin immediately after the Digital Equity Research Partner is contracted. This leaves little time for consultations with local experts and stakeholders to inform the development of research hypotheses. What expectations are there that research instruments should reflect local input?

A. The Research partner will be able to consult with Digital Equity Taskforce members and the Regional Broadband Partners, but yes things will need to move quickly.


Q. Should respondents to this RFP include draft survey instruments and focus group moderator guides in their proposals, in order to move the research design process forward to meet aggressive timelines?

A. That would be useful.


Q. Do you think it will be appropriate for focus group conversations to be recorded, or transcribed?

A. Transcribed certainly; I'm not sure how most respondents will feel about recording sessions though certainly this is something we can consult with the partners/hosts about.

Q. One of the DEA covered populations is incarcerated individuals. Does MCA know whether the Maine Department of Corrections is prepared to accommodate digital equity research being conducted among prisoners? 

A. Great question; we are currently working to meet directly with the Department as well as identify a representative to be part of the Taskforce.  We have also reached out to other non profit organizations working with formerly incarcerated populations.


Q. The RFP mentions a Broadband Intelligence Platform, and links to the website, but we were unable to find this on the website. Is that currently live?

A. Currently, no.  We are working on a new consultant relationship for the public viewer functions.  Our own staff Data Analyst and Communications Director will help ensure that our research partner's data can be integrated into the public viewer and dashboard that is developed.


Q. The RFP specifies that MCA has a particular interest in the connectivity status of affordable housing communities. Do you envision outreach to the management of these communities being part of the research strategy? Does Education Superhighway have their contact information?

A. Yes; Education Superhighway will be able to provide lists of housing developments/buildings that are eligible for BEAD funding and many on the list have contact information for the property manager or owner.  ESH will also have some staff helping to track down additional contact information.


Q. Concerning funding sources, the DE NOFO says Maine should expect a Digital Equity Planning Grant of $542,222.32. Is this the funding source for this research project? Are there any other sources of funding you expect to be able to draw upon? Have other needs been identified that the DE Planning Grant will need to meet? Do you have a target budget for this project?

A. There is a line item in each our DEA and BEAD planning grants for the research partner's work.  Yes, there are other activities within the DEA planning grant budget.  MCA is expecting a budget in the range of $100,000 but has some ability to shift funding as needed from other sources.