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July 15, 2019

Eight ConnectME broadband grants awarded to towns, regions

Photo / Maureen Milliken Mount Vernon is one of six towns in the Kennebec County Western Lakes group tht has been awarded a broadband planning grant by the ConnectME authority.

Eight towns and regions in the state will share $731,775 in grants for broadband infrastructure and planning, awarded by the ConnectME authority last week.

Alna (Lincoln County), Alton (Penobscot County), Bowdoinham (Sagadahoc County) and Cambridge (Somerset County) will get infrastructure grants, bringing fiber optic service to 867 locations in the four communities. The grants are matched by $1,473,130 from the communities and the internet service provider that is building out the broadband service.

Community planning grants totaling $89,275 will go to Argyle (Penobscot County), Swans Island (Hancock County), Franklin County and the Western Lakes region of Kennebec County (the towns of Fayette, Leeds, Mount Vernon, Readfield, Vienna and Wayne). The grants are designed to help engage communities, identify needs and engage potential broadband service providers to expand the availability of broadband to their area. The grants are matched by $120,000 from the communities seeking funding.

“Broadband is critical to spur innovation, create opportunity, and build a strong, diverse economy — especially in rural Maine,” said Gov. Janet Mills in a Friday news release from ConnectME.

“One of the highest priorities of my administration is to expand our state’s broadband infrastructure and these grants from ConnectME are a positive step in that direction by leveraging local and private investment to bring high-speed connectivity to these communities.”

State Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, said, “High-speed internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.”

Berry, who is House chair of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, added: “While my own constituents are now served, many Mainers still lack access to opportunities for business, health care, and education that require fast, reliable upload and download speeds. This is the critical importance of the state’s ConnectME Authority to improve our prosperity and quality of life.”

Mills’ budget, as proposed and passed, increases funding for ConnectME by $1.9 million, beginning in January. Mills' bond package, which still awaits Legislative approval, includes another $30 million dedicated to broadband expansion.

The infrastructure grants are:

Town of Alna, internet service provider Tidewater Telecom; $185,000 project, grant is for $92,500, with $92,500 matching from town and Tidewater Telecom. Potential connections are 130.

Town of Alton, internet service provider Otelco; $700,000 project, grant is for $260,000, with $440,000 matching from the community and Otelco. The project has 260 potential connections.

Town of Bowdoinham, internet service provider LCI; $580,630 project, grant is for $90,000, with $490,000 matching from the community and LCI. Potential connections are 214.

Town of Cambridge, internet service provider Premium Choice; $650,000 project, grant is for $200,000 with $450,000 matching from town and Premium Choice. Potential connects are 263.

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