Maine Connectivity Authority launches new program to support broadband utility districts
AUGUSTA —The Maine Connectivity Authority is launching a new program to provide targeted support to Broadband Utility Districts in Maine.
Broadband Utility Districts are community-based organizations formed to build and operate broadband networks to increase access to high-speed internet. The utility district ownership model is a critical part of helping enable regional scale impact resulting in improved connectivity and digital equity in Maine. The districts often partner with service providers to operate the network, while the communities in the districts own the internet infrastructure.
“Broadband Utility Districts are a key way for communities to come together to provide high-speed, reliable internet to residents of their region,” said Andrew Butcher, president of the Maine Connectivity Authority. “There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to make sure everyone in Maine who wants high-speed internet can have it, and forming a BUD can give communities another choice in expanding internet access in a way that works best for them.”
As BUD members come together to create a new publicly owned internet service provider, they face numerous challenges, including access to capital, legal guidance, technical design, and overall organizational capacity.
“Access to capital is the single biggest challenge facing community-owned broadband projects in Maine,” said Joe Meadows of the Waldo Broadband Corporation. “We are excited and encouraged to see MCA addressing that challenge in what we hope is a highly effective and efficient program.”
In partnership with the Finance Authority of Maine, the Maine Municipal Bond Bank, and other partners, MCA is developing a collaborative strategy to engage critical stakeholders, deploy targeted technical assistance, and craft appropriate funding programs to help BUDs fulfill their potential.
“We want to empower communities to make their own decision about how to increase access to reliable, affordable and high-speed internet,” Butcher said. “For some communities, that might be a Broadband Utility District. For others, it might mean partnering with an existing internet service provider. Our job is to promote various partnership models that connect Maine people and businesses.”
More information about the Help for BUDs program is available on the Maine Connectivity Authority website at maineconnectivity.org/buds.
The Maine Connectivity Authority was created in 2021 to expand access to fast, reliable and affordable internet to the people and places who need it and to break down the barriers that keep Mainers from taking full advantage of those connections.