Governor Janet Mills announced today that the ConnectMaine Board of Directors has voted to approve the second round of broadband infrastructure projects funded by the High Speed Internet Infrastructure Bond she spearheaded and that Maine voters overwhelmingly approved in July 2020. This second round of funding will connect approximately 6,000 Maine homes and businesses to high-speed internet.
“Having reliable, high-speed internet means you can work remotely, study, start a business, see a doctor, and stay in touch with friends and family. Simple things that are at the heart of a strong economy and a strong state,” said Governor Mills. “Today, we take another step forward in bringing high-speed internet access to more families and businesses across Maine.”
“Ensuring that all Maine people have access to a reliable internet connection is critical to building a strong economy,”said Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. “I commend all of the organizations involved in the public-private partnerships making expansion of broadband infrastructure to these communities possible.”
The ConnectMaine Authority Board of Directors has approved $15,028,357 to eight broadband infrastructure projects in Androscoggin, Cumberland, Lincoln, Oxford, and Waldo counties. Communities served by the projects include Buckfield, Chebeague Island, Cooper, Hartford, Hebron, Leeds, Northport, Princeton, Searsport, and Southport.
These public-private partnerships will serve approximately 6,000 unserved or underserved locations. The total cost of the projects is $23,705,650, including the required funding match from internet service providers and municipalities.
The grants are supported by $6.5 million remaining from the $15 million broadband bond spearheaded by Governor Mills and approved by Maine voters in July 2020. The first half of bond funding was allocated in May 2021 to connect approximately 8,571 Maine locations. In addition to remaining bond funds, approximately $8.5 million for this second round of grant funding will come from federal funds the Governor has designated for the Maine Connectivity Authority through her Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan.
The ConnectMaine Authority utilized its Broadband Intelligence Platform to ensure that any projects chosen would maximize investments in qualifying areas. The Platform gives the Authority the ability to track where service gaps remain as state broadband leaders work to achieve Governor Mills’ statewide broadband connectivity goal.
“Maine is a leader in expanding broadband access in a smart, strategic way,” said Peggy Schaffer, Executive Director of the ConnectMaine Authority. “Our Broadband Intelligence Platform is ensuring that as we work to bring connectivity to more Maine people, we target our resources responsibly and reach homes and businesses previously trapped in gaps in coverage.”
These projects are the latest in the Mills Administration’s efforts to expand connectivity in Maine. In February, the ConnectMaine Authority announced it had secured $28 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce in support of public-private partnerships to connect more than 11,000 homes in Franklin, Hancock, Knox, and Lincoln Counties.
In 2021, Governor Mills proposed and the Legislature unanimously approved the creation of the Maine Connectivity Authority, a State entity charged with investing $150 million in Federal American Rescue Plan Act funds toward universal availability of broadband in Maine.
In 2020, Governor Mills also dedicated $5.6 million in CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds, in partnership with private internet providers, to build out permanent internet infrastructure to more than 730 students across rural Maine. Governor Mills also worked to secure mobile hotspots and learning devices for nearly 24,000 students across Maine after schools suspended in-classroom instruction and adopted remote learning.