News

Sixth Round of Broadband Expansion Grants Announced

May 11, 2011

The ConnectME Authority is pleased to announce the sixth grant round of our broadband infrastructure funding program. We are looking for creative solutions for expanding affordable broadband service to the unserved areas of Maine. For this round, we are again requesting smaller, focused proposals, with a suggested grant limit for each project of $100,000, funding no more than 50% of the total project, while recognizing that we can be flexible for exceptional proposals.

Legislation creating the ConnectME Authority provides for funding from a 0.25% surcharge on instate communications services. Due to the limited funding, we are asking that interested applicants submit brief, pre-application letters describing a project or projects by June 6, 2011. We will share the pre-application letters with existing or incumbent broadband service providers for review, for two purposes. First, to ensure that the area proposed to be served by your project is, indeed, an unserved area with no broadband expansion projects planned by other providers in the near term. Second, to encourage collaboration between providers or other grant applicants that might enable a partnership to provide broadband service more widely or to avoid overlap. For that reason, do not include confidential or proprietary information in your pre-application letter.

We also require that prospective applicants indicate in their pre-application letter that they have communicated with nearby incumbent or existing broadband service providers for current and future plans for expansion in the proposed project area. The intent of this contact is to minimize overlap and challenges, and to prevent ConnectME Authority funds from being used in areas where private investment is or will deliver broadband service.

We recommend that applicants find partners among the various providers of broadband services or community-based organizations to use the grants as seed money to get operational infrastructure installed. The amount of local public and private funding will be considered when reviewing the full applications.

Please review the ConnectME Authority Rule and Statute, which can be found online at http://www.maine.gov/connectme/. Pay particular attention to Section 6(D) of the rule which describes the application and evaluation process. Please be aware that the Authority has stated its primary funding activities will be targeted at areas where residents do not currently have access to terrestrial broadband service, as defined by the Authority. Ideally, each project should be capable of providing broadband service to all residents of the target area.

Finally, all ConnectME Authority grant awardees (applicant and/or eligible provider partner) will be required to fully cooperate with the Authority and its contractor, James W. Sewall Company regarding data collection for the broadband mapping and planning Projects.

The Maine State Legislature recognizes the importance of making broadband services available throughout our entire State. Future economic opportunities depend on our ability to have these services affordable and available to all residents of Maine. While many providers have made great strides in most parts of the State, we must seek ways to encourage deployment in all of our unserved areas.

The Authority recently updated its definition of broadband, which can be found on ConnectME Authority's website.

The Authority’s new broadband availability map showing served and unserved areas is now available in a Beta version. It is a work in progress and you should review the disclaimer. Subsequent versions will be more accurate and granular.

Full details on the grant process can be found at the ConnectME Authority grant program website.