Competitive Award to Accelerate Access to Quality Internet
AUGUSTA – The Maine Connectivity Authority has earned a new $30 million federal grant to improve broadband infrastructure in Maine. The competitive grant will fund 530 miles of “middle mile” infrastructure, which are regional fiber optic lines that are able to carry large amounts of data at high speeds over long distances to provide internet connectivity to homes and businesses.
Maine’s successful grant application is bringing together key partners, including Networkmaine of the University of Maine System, in a $53 million project to construct the Maine Online Optical Statewide Enabling Network (MOOSE Net). The funding comes from National Telecommunications Information Administration’s (NTIA) Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program. The $1 billion program received over $7.5 billion of requests, and Maine’s proposal was one of 32 selected from a pool of more than 260 applications.
“This grant will fund the construction of critical broadband infrastructure that will bring Maine closer to ensuring that anyone in Maine who wants a fast, affordable, reliable internet connection can have one. Work completed by the Maine Connectivity Authority in support of that goal positioned our state well to secure funding in what was an extremely competitive process,” said Governor Janet Mills. “I thank the NTIA for its continued support of expanding connectivity in Maine, and the Maine Congressional Delegation for their work to make this funding possible.”
MOOSE Net’s expansion of Networkmaine‘s optical network will deploy open-access fiber “highways” that provide an essential backbone network to enable last-mile providers to increase their coverage, reduce costs, help fortify digital infrastructure to prevent outages and advance the competitiveness of rural communities.
“Access to high-speed Internet is critical to the vitality of rural communities, which is why I have long championed expanding access to broadband across Maine,” said Senator Collins. “From spurring job creation to supporting telemedicine and education, the Internet unlocks almost endless benefits and possibilities. I was one of the core group of Senators who negotiated the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help bridge the digital divide between rural and urban areas. I am pleased that this funding, which was included in the broadband section I co-authored with Senator Shaheen, will help Maine to take another step forward to extend its high-speed network to ensure that families have a reliable connection to their loved ones, coworkers, schools, and medical services.”
The 530-mile route crosses 131 communities, passing more than 11,000 unserved houses and local businesses. It will reach more than 200 community anchor institutions, including schools, hospitals, libraries, local government buildings and civic centers.
“This investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law demonstrates Maine’s leadership in improving access to broadband internet,” said US Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who was also a co-author of the Middle Mile Broadband Deployment Act that was incorporated into the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. “This award will help to fill an important need in our state, and I will continue to work with my colleagues on programs that will expand access to broadband and help to close the digital divide.”
Maine’s low population density and rural geography make it difficult to attract the same private middle mile investment that other states have seen over the past two decades. MOOSE Net will facilitate affordable broadband access to thousands of households along the route and ensure Maine has the 21st-century broadband infrastructure businesses need to thrive and grow.
“With this grant award, Maine is demonstrating its national leadership in the expansion of high-speed, reliable and affordable internet,” said Andrew Butcher, president of the Maine Connectivity Authority. “MOOSE Net is a key part of providing the connectivity infrastructure that will enable critical last mile internet service and help connect Maine’s diverse industries.”
The University of Maine System (UMS) and Networkmaine are key partners on the proposal, which was also developed in collaboration with the Maine Department of Transportation, Consolidated Communications, Tilson Technology, dozens of other regional entities, leading statewide internet service providers and telecommunication companies.
“We are delighted to partner with the MCA on this exciting endeavor,” said David Demers, Chief Information Officer for UMS and an ex-officio MCA board member. “As we continue to strive to provide Maine’s research & education community with high-performance network connectivity essential for innovation, collaboration, and economic growth, the development of MOOSE Net will help us connect the state’s community anchor institutions with affordable and reliable Internet access.”
The proposal contained more than 40 letters of support from various sectors, including large employers, internet service providers, regional partners, communities and many others. These partners will provide a mix of cash and in-kind support (e.g., access to telecommunications infrastructure, staff and equipment) to best position MOOSE Net for success and rapid deployment.
“Investing in broadband infrastructure is another important way to connect people, just as our transportation system connects us all,” said Bruce Van Note, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation. “Partnering with MCA on this project is a key way for our team to work collaboratively with other agencies to improve the economic opportunity and quality of life for the people of Maine.”
Maine Connectivity Authority will celebrate this award, along with other upcoming announcements, at a press event in late June. More information will be forthcoming.