Update: Charter/Spectrum's Reach Me
Line Extension Award
On Friday, November 3, 2023, Charter/Spectrum submitted the information requested by MCA and necessary to complete the Reach Me grant contract. In the coming week, MCA will provide Charter/Spectrum with the full grant agreement package for execution.
On Thursday, October 25, 2023, Charter/Spectrum reached out to MCA with an update to their previous decision to decline their $6.8 million Reach Me Award. Charter/Spectrum has indicated their ability to comply with program requirements and intention to accept their Reach Me Award. The MCA staff and Charter/Spectrum are working to finalize agreed-upon terms by Friday, November 3, 2023.
Previously, on Monday, October 23, 2023, Charter/Spectrum declined its $6.8 million Reach Me line extension award, rejecting a program requirement designed to ensure an affordable broadband option for low-income households. This contractual requirement has not been met with any resistance from the other eight internet service providers awarded through this program.
Next Steps with Affected Communities
MCA will continue to actively evaluate options to address the connectivity needs of the impacted communities, working with community leaders, regional partners, and state legislators to address the critical need for universal affordable broadband.
Context & Timeline of Spectrum's Reach Me Application and Award
As a central component of the program, the MCA Board of Directors approved a requirement that all Reach Me awardees provide an internet service plan that is fully covered by the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides a $30/month subsidy for eligible households, through the period of the grant. That requirement was prominently featured through numerous stages of MCA’s program guidance, educational sessions and grant application process, ensuring that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide an affordable service plan for people who cannot otherwise afford internet service.
The MCA team worked with Charter/Spectrum to identify a compromise suitable for the company and honor MCA’s statutory requirement to provide a guarantee of affordable internet service as MCA subsidizes the extension of privately owned infrastructure.
Below is a timeline of Charter/Spectrum's activity during the application and award process.
October 25, 2022: The Reach Me Line Extension RFQ opened, and Program Guidance was published on MCA's website
November 14, 2022: Charter/Spectrum submitted an RFQ during the submission period
January 6, 2023: Charter/Spectrum submitted a proposal during the submission window, thereby agreeing to comply with all requirements listed in the program guidance document and contract
January 2023 - March 2023: MCA staff and committees reviewed submissions, remediated applications with applicants, and developed recommendations for awards
April 21, 2023: MCA Board approved Reach Me Line Extension Awards, including Charter/Spectrum's
May 2023 - October 2023: Grant Execution Process underway with MCA sharing draft contract language with awardees, including Spectrum
August 2023: Charter/Spectrum notifies MCA that they have concerns about the previously communicated and agreed-upon affordability requirements listed in the Reach Me agreement.
August 2023 - October 2023: MCA engages in an ongoing conversation with Charter/Spectrum about potential compromise solutions
October 23, 2023: Charter/Spectrum notified MCA of their intention to decline the Reach Me award and submitted letters to the town select boards of affected communities
October 25, 2023: Charter/Spectrum notified MCA of their ability to full the program requirements and their intention of accepting their Reach Me award.
Affordability is at the core of all MCA Programs
Grant programs through the Maine Connectivity Authority are clear in their requirements. In addition to expanding broadband infrastructure to new areas, MCA is committed to ensuring that Mainers are able to afford that broadband when it arrives. To that extent, MCA has successfully partnered with internet service providers around the state to expand access to fast, affordable and quality service as Maine cannot reach its aggressive internet goals without partners. More information about MCA's commitment to affordability and the Affordable Connectivity Program can be found on the Affordability webpage.
Specific information about how affordability plays a role in the Reach Me Line Extension program design, criteria, priorities, and funding source can be found on the Reach Me webpage
As Outlined in Reach Me Program Guidance: Section 2.6 Affordability
As with all MCA's program, applicants were provided with specific program guidance to ensure clear expectations throughout the application and award processes. The requirements for the Reach Me Line Extension program were clear and consistent. Grant awardees must agree to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides a subsidy to low-income households. In the Reach Me Line Extension Program Guidance, MCA outlined the following in December 2022.
To qualify for Reach Me Incentives, respondents must agree that their prices for service offerings on any funded projects will be equal to or less than the price per subscriber location offered by the involved ISP elsewhere in the state. To qualify, ISPs also must offer service of at least 100 Mbps download / 20 Mbps upload that is priced no higher than the federal reasonable comparability benchmark for broadband rates as determined by the annual FCC Urban Rate Survey.
To qualify for Reach Me Incentives, ISPs must participate in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) to meet federal requirements, and a service level of at least 50 Mbps download / 10 Mbps upload must be offered to those eligible for ACP at a price that is fully subsidized under the ACP. This is $30 per month as of January 2022.