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May 2, 2019

ConnectME program launches $740K round of broadband grant funding

Photo / Maureen Milliken Gov. Janet Mills talks about high-speed internet and its importance to businesses at an event in Portland in December. The focus of the Mills administration on broadband accessibility will mean increased interest in ConnectME grants that are being offered to underserved communities, state officials say.
The ConnectME Authority is a public program of Maine state government established to facilitate the universal availability of broadband to all Maine households and businesses.
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State officials expect a lot of interest from communities looking to expand internet accessibility as the 14th round of infrastructure grants and fourth round of planning grants by the ConnectME broadband program opens.

The application process opened Wednesday, and a greater focus on broadband connectivity by the Mills administration should generate a lot of interest in the grants from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development program, said Peggy Schaffer, ConnectME director.

Shaffer said in a news release that Gov. Janet Mills has made expanding access to broadband a top priority, and the authority "anticipates a lot of interest" in the $740,000 in grants designed to connect under-served parts of Maine.

"We have been working with internet service providers and communities all across the state who are working hard to figure out how to get better, or in some cases, any connection to the internet,” said Schaffer.

Planning Grant Phase I applications focus on providing funding that allows a community to identify and build community support for a broadband expansion project.

Planning Grant Phase II grants are intended to give communities funding to develop a more thorough inventory of infrastructure and develop a specific plan, including potential network designs, operating models and business models the community could pursue to build out a network, the release said.

Infrastructure Grants are grants to build infrastructure to serve areas that have less than 25 mbps/3 mbps speeds and a build-to level of a minimum of 10 mbps/10 mbps.

The Maine Legislature has adopted the following goals related to broadband:

  • Broadband service be universally available in this state, including to all residential and business locations and community anchor institutions;
  • There be secure, reliable, competitive and sustainable forward-looking infrastructure that can meet future broadband needs;
  • All residents, businesses and institutions in the state be able to take full advantage of the economic opportunities available through broadband service.

The ConnectME Authority was established as an independent state agency in 2006 to achieve those goals. The funding mechanism for the ConnectME Authority is a 0.25% surcharge on all communications, video and internet service bills that generates approximately $850,000 a year.

“Communities know that being connected to true high-speed internet service is a critical element to how their citizens access better educational opportunities, health care and how businesses will remain competitive in the global market place,” Schaffer said. “This grant round is another step in the effort to make sure Maine’s rural areas have opportunities for success in today’s economy.”

Over the past 13 years, the ConnectME Authority has awarded $12.33 million in grants to 146 projects, increasing access to high-speed internet to 39,777 Maine households. ConnectME started issuing Planning Grants in 2016 and has issued 16 grants for a total of $580,872. The grants are critical to supporting communities as they determine their needs, assets and business models to move forward, the release said.

Applications for both programs are due June 12 and information can be found on the authority's website,

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