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January 8, 2019

Diverse group of organizations land Maine Community Foundation broadband grants

Organizations from York to Penobscot County will share $130,000 in grants awarded by the Maine Community Foundation to 11 communities to increase broadband access across Maine.

The foundation's new Community Broadband Grant Program announced its first round of grants Monday. The program aims to increase the number of Maine people, communities, and businesses with access to high-speed internet service and improve skills, knowledge and opportunity to effectively use the technology.

Grant recipients include:

  • City of Biddeford: Development of a broadband plan to move toward becoming a "Smart Community." The city, on its website, says the grant is $15,000, and will help mobilize a team that will hire a consultant to identify broadband needs in the city's low to moderate-income neighborhoods. Obstacles, including affordability and service delivery will be explored, and a digital literacy strategy formed.
  • Our Katahdin: The nonprofit group has helped the towns of Millinocket, East Millinocket and Medway form the state's second public broadband utility (the first is the Downeast Broadband Utility in Baileyville and Calais). The award will provide staff and expertise for the Katahdin Region Broadband Utility to begin community outreach and education.
  • Northern Forest Center: The New Hampshire-based organization is supporting the Maine West Initiative to expand digital inclusion and equity in northern Oxford County. The initiative includes more than 20 towns and unorganized territories in the Oxford Hills, Rumford and Bethel areas.
  • Newport Public Library Association: The grant will secure the technology to provide digital online classes to benefit older adults in the Penobscot County town.
  • Town of Deer Isle: Planning and preliminary engineering for extending broadband internet service to all residents and businesses.

"Increasingly, quality of life — and communication — for Maine people, communities, and businesses is improved by the ability to access reliable, affordable high-speed internet," said Maggie Drummond-Bahl, Maine Community Foundation senior program officer, in a news release. "We are proud to be one of many partners helping to boost local and regional efforts to improve connectivity across Maine."

The foundation, headquartered in Ellsworth and Portland, announced the program in July. Communities get up to $15,000 for a wide variety of projects, ranging from community meetings to assess internet needs, research for local broadband planning, the creation of Wi-Fi hotspots and more. The grant money must be used in 2019.

The program continues this year, with an application deadline expected to be in the fall.

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