Gov. Mills announces ConnectMaine approval of broadband infrastructure grants

AUGUSTA — Gov. Janet Mills announced that the ConnectMaine Board of Directors has voted to approve the first round of broadband infrastructure projects funded by the High Speed Internet Infrastructure Bond she spearheaded and that Maine voters overwhelmingly approved in July 2020. The $15 million bond represents the first significant funding that ConnectMaine has received in its 12-year history and the first round of funding will support 20 projects across 11 counties.

The area grant recipients include $1.8 million to Premium Choice Broadband for a project in Piscatquis and Somerset county unorganized territories between Greenville and Jackman; $95,900 to Cornerstone Communications for a project in Brownville and Lake View; $200,000 to Premium Choice Broadband for a project in Parkman and Cambridge; $154,000 to Premium Choice Broadband for a project in Dover-Foxcroft and Garland; $313,248 to Premium Choice Broadband for a project in Greenville; and $577,243 to Premium Choice Broadband for a project in Monson. 

“High speed internet is as fundamental as electricity, heat, and water. It is a necessity, and we need to have it across our state. That is why my Administration has made expanding access to broadband a priority, securing the first state-level investment in more than a decade that we’re now turning into projects,” said Mills. “Today, we take another step forward in bringing high-speed internet access to more families and businesses across Maine.”

“We are very pleased in the diversity of projects that were submitted in this first round of applications,” said Peggy Schaffer, director of the ConnectMaine Authority. “The support of communities, internet service providers, ConnnectMaine’s grants team including Tilson Technologies and Vetro Fiber made this process a very thorough and competitive process. We look forward to working with all the applicants in the coming months to continue to bring this essential service to more Mainers.”

“High-speed reliable internet is absolutely critical to the future of the State of Maine. These projects highlight the highlight the diversity of public private partnerships that are needed to build resilient communities and close Maine’s digital divide,”  said Nick Battista, senior policy officer at the Island Institute and chair of the ConnectMaine Authority Board. “Using state bond funds to leverage almost twice as much in matching funds will help connect over 8500 homes. Congratulations to all of the grantees for your hard work, these are place based projects that take time to pull together, thank you for caring about the future of Maine.”

The board approved $8,671,323 in grants to 20 projects in 11 counties across Maine serving 8571 locations. The total cost of the projects is $23,699,581, including the required funding match  from internet service providers and other municipalities. Projects funded in the Midcoast area expand on the Mills Administration’s ConnectKidsNow! initiative last year, which expanded high-speed internet to more than 700 students. The largest geographical project brings fiber connections from Rockwood to Jackman.

The ConnectMaine Authority anticipates that these projects will be built over the next year.

Later this year, ConnectMaine will accept applications for the remainder of the bond funding. Meanwhile, ConnectMaine will continue to work with communities on community planning in order to take full advantage of potential federal funding opportunities.

The expansion of high quality, affordable internet is a priority of the Mills Administration. In addition to spearheading last year’s bond proposal, Mills has proposed investing $150 million through the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan and creating the Maine Connectivity Authority to expand access to affordable broadband.

The ConnectMaine Authority is a public instrumentality of Maine state government whose mission is to facilitate the universal availability of broadband to all Maine households and businesses and help them understand the valuable role it can play in enriching their lives and helping their communities thrive.

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