Maine awards $37M in grants to Consolidated, Firstlight, two other ISPs

The Maine Connectivity Authority (MCA) this week doled out $36.6 million in grants to four providers, who will take on broadband projects to collectively connect more than 24,000 homes and businesses in the state.

Consolidated Communications took home the highest funding amount, with five grants totaling around $17.2 million. Four of the grants were awarded via MCA’s Connect the Ready Program, while the fifth was a Partnerships for Enabling Middle Mile (PEMM) award.

All told, Consolidated will use the money for projects in 24 Maine communities.

Sarah Davis, VP of Market Development at Consolidated, said in a statement the operator will construct a 2-gig capable fiber network connecting more than 10,000 homes and businesses.

“Thanks to the partnership with MCA, Consolidated is able to make its financial investment in fiber service go even further to connect more unserved and underserved residents in the State,” she said.

The other grant winners were Maine-based ISP Direct Communications ($10.9 million), FirstLight ($5.65 million) and GWI with a nearly $3 million award. As for how many locations they’re planning to cover, Firstlight is aiming to serve 12,682 locations, followed by Direct Communications with 3,072 and GWI will cover 845.

Maine funded these grants through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), combining money from the Treasury Department’s Capital Projects Fund and the Maine Jobs and Recovery Program.

MCA said as of December 2023, it’s facilitated over $145 million in digital equity and infrastructure investments. Those funds have helped connect over 77,000 additional connections across the state.

The state claims Maine now has less than 6% of locations with no internet connection.

Like other states, Maine is preparing to submit its initial proposal for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, detailing how it plans to spend its allocation. In Maine’s case, it received nearly $272 million.

The NTIA in October launched a public dashboard showing the progress each state and territory has made in the initial proposal. The dashboard indicates Maine has completed four of the 10 phases required to meet the NTIA’s December 27 deadline and is awaiting final approval for Volume 1 of its initial proposal.

Once a state gets approval for Volume 1, it must then submit a second volume for the NTIA’s approval. When the NTIA finally approves a state’s initial proposal, that state can request access to at least 20% of their allocated funds.

So far, Louisiana is the first state to secure approval for its initial proposal.