99-639 C.M.R. ch. 101, § 6 - CONNECTMAINE AUTHORITY SUPPORT

Current through 2022-14, April 6, 2022

In order to achieve the purpose set forth in § 1., the Authority shall determine:

A. Priority infrastructure projects. The Authority shall give preference among eligible infrastructure grant applications to projects in unserved areas that provide the greatest relative improvement to existing Internet service in unserved areas. In determining what constitutes relative improvement, the Authority will consider the following criteria:
1. The number of potential subscribers to be served by the project, and the capital cost per potential subscriber to extend advanced communications technology infrastructures to potential subscribers;
2. Whether Authority support for the project will inhibit or impede private investment in the area;
3. Whether Authority support for the project will diminish the value of prior investment in advanced communications technology infrastructure used to provide broadband service or mobile communications service within the area; and
4. Whether without the Authority's support for the project, the installation of adequate advanced communications technology infrastructure would not otherwise occur.
5. The increase in download and upload speeds.
B. Eligible Applicants. Applicants eligible to receive Authority support may include the following:
1. For Community Planning Grants
a. General-purpose local governments (municipalities, groups of municipalities and counties);
b. Groups or regional partnership of general-purpose local governments;
c. Local government authorities, and joint or multi-county development authorities; and
d. Non-profit local or regional community organizations that are providing local or regional economic development programs.
2. For Infrastructure Grants
a. Communications service providers;
b. Units of local government including broadband utility districts; and
c. Any other responsible entity or group determined by the Authority to be capable of installing, using, and managing advanced communications technology infrastructure in the area.
C. Eligible Activities. Eligible uses of funds provided under the ConnectMaine Fund include activities, facilities, and services described in 35-A M.R.S., Chapter 93, including the provision of public infrastructure, services, facilities and improvements needed to implement new broadband services, enhance existing broadband services, implement new mobile communications service, or enhance existing mobile communications service or the provision of technical and financial assistance to support local and regional broadband planning activities, to unserved areas. Funds may also be used for matching requirements, "gap" financing, and grants, that may assist projects in qualifying for other sources of funding, as well as any other activities that are integral and necessary for the development, installation and use of a broadband or mobile communications system.
D. Application Process. The Authority will initiate a round of grant-making through public announcement. Applicants will be provided information on how to apply for a grant and a copy of a grant scoring guide at the time of the announcement of the grant round. The application process is subject to change, depending on funds available for granting, but will include, at a minimum the following provisions:
1. Infrastructure Grant Application. The application for a grant to build infrastructure will include, at a minimum, the following:
a. a description and GIS enabled map of the area proposed to be served by the project and sufficient information to establish that it meets the Authority's definition of an unserved or underserved area, as set forth in section 5 of this Chapter;
b. a description of the proposed project, including public-private partnerships that have been established, evidence that the partners in the project are eligible to receive funding from the Authority, the type of service to be provided and, in the case of broadband service, the upstream and downstream speeds of the service to be provided, an estimate of the time required to complete the proposed project, the percentage distribution of households and businesses within the area to be served by the project and the estimated price per customer of the service to be provided by the proposed project;
c. the total amount of funding requested from the Authority;
d. the applicant's financial commitment to the project in addition to the funding requested from the Authority;
e. the estimated number of customers who will directly benefit from the project who are currently unserved or underserved and the number of locations that will be left unserved in the community;
f. evidence of community support for the proposed project, which may include letters or signatures of residents or businesses located within the area of the proposed project;
g. certification that the applicant has contacted the incumbent service provider(s) in the project area regarding current or impending plans for broadband infrastructure expansion and a description of such contact;
h. Timeline for completion of the proposed project; and
i. All infrastructure grantees must agree in writing to provide net neutral services in the provision of broadband internet access service across advanced communications technology infrastructure constructed with the use of the state funds. Net Neutral Services must be provided for all subscriber locations that were funded in full or in part with any State funds. For the purposes of this section Net Neutral Services shall have the same meaning as MRSA 5 Section 1541 B.
2. Evaluation of Applications for Infrastructure Grants. The application evaluation process will allow the Authority to evaluate all applications submitted during a particular application period that has been set by the Authority. In addition to evaluation of the greatest relative improvement offered by the project, the application will be judged using the following scoring categories:
a. Cost-Benefit. The cost-benefit scoring is based on relevant factors, including, but not limited to, the amount of funding requested from the Authority per customer eligible to be served by the project, with lower funding per customer receiving a higher cost-benefit score;
b. Community Support. The community support score is based on relevant factors, including, but not limited to, evidence of community support for the project and the percentage of households within the project area that will be served by the proposed project;
c. Project Scope. The project scope score is based on relevant factors, including, but not limited to, the number of customers to be served by the project, the type and, when relevant, the speed of service to be offered by the project and the applicant's financial commitment to the project; and
d. Project Value. The project value score is based on relevant factors, including, but not limited to, the estimated price per customer to receive service from the proposed project and any other details of the project that may benefit customers in the area proposed to be served by the proposed project.
3. Planning Grant Applications. An applicant for a community broadband planning grant shall address the following information:
a. a description of the area proposed to be the subject of the study and plan for broadband expansion;
b. a description of the applicant, including any public-private partnerships that have been established to seek the planning grant;
c. a description of any institutions or entities within the community that would qualify as an "anchor institution" that are supportive of broadband expansion;
d. the amount requested from the Authority to support the planning project;
e. the applicant's financial commitment to the study and planning for broadband expansion in the community;
f. the applicant's in-kind contribution to the study and planning for broadband expansion, including commitment of labor (paid or volunteer) and community resources;
g. an attestation that funds provided by the applicant for purposes of funding the planning project do not consist of in-kind contributions from the applicant or a vendor or private business that proposes to build, operate or provide retail services using broadband infrastructure constructed pursuant to the planning grant, pursuant to 35-A MRSA §9217(4);
h. a description of community support for broadband expansion in the form of letters or testimonials;
i. the estimated number of customers who currently have access to broadband service within the proposed project area;
j. the estimated number of unserved customers who could be served by expanded broadband infrastructure;
k. a description of the contact that the applicant has had with any incumbent service provider(s) in the community regarding current or impending plans for broadband infrastructure expansion; and
l. a description of any prior applications by the communities within the area of the grant application, either jointly or individually, for community planning grants.
4. Planning Grant Evaluation process. The Authority shall provide grants for planning projects to municipalities, groups of municipalities or nonprofit local or regional community economic development organizations to develop plans to expand the availability of broadband service in accordance with the following provisions:
a. The authority shall score each application using the following scoring categories:
i. Community Support. The community support score is based on relevant factors, including, but not limited to, the scope of participation by residents of each affected community in the application process and the amount of economic support to be provided by members of each affected community.
ii. Project Focus. The project focus score is based on the degree to which the application proposes a project that is likely to produce the required results set forth in 35-A MRSA §9217(1).
iii. Project Preparation. The degree of completeness with which the applicant has provided the required information set forth in subsection 3.
iv. Financial Commitment. The amount of financial support to be provided by members of each affected community.

The Authority must ensure that community broadband planning grants are equitably distributed throughout unserved and underserved areas of the state and that the grants encourage collaboration between multiple communities.

The authority may fund up to 25% of the total award amount upon the granting of an award, subject to recapture by the Authority in the event of failure to successfully complete the grant. Full payment shall be awarded upon successful completion of the grant as set forth in subsection 5.

The Authority shall make all plans developed using grant funds available on the Authority's website.

5. Project Completion and Evaluation. A project will be considered successfully completed and eligible for final payment only if it complies with the following provisions.
a. Infrastructure Grants
i. Projects of less than $1,500,0000, that have received grant approval must be completed within one year of receipt of funds from the Authority or within 180 days of all licenses and permits or governmental approvals necessary to complete the project, whichever later occurs, unless a waiver is granted by the Authority due to unforeseen circumstances. Projects that are over $1,500,000 will have a contractually agreed to completion date; and
ii. Within one year of receipt of funds from the Authority or within 180 days of all licenses and permits or governmental approvals necessary to complete the project, whichever later occurs, the recipient must submit a report demonstrating completion, or in the case of a project that has been granted an extension of the one-year time period for completion, a report of progress. Such report must include an itemization of costs for which the Authority's funding was used as well a description of the service that has been created through use of the funds.
b. Planning Grants
i. Planning projects that have received grant approval must be completed within one year of funding unless a waiver is granted by the Authority due to unforeseen circumstances; and
ii. Upon the date of completion, the recipient must submit a report with sufficient detail to allow the authority to determine whether the Plan generated by the project complies with 35-A MRSA §9217(1) to include the following information:
1. Define local broadband needs and goals;
2. Inventory existing broadband infrastructure assets within the community or region;
3. Include a gap analysis defining the additional broadband infrastructure necessary to meet identified needs and goals;
4. Include one or more potential network designs, cost estimates, operating models and potential business models based on input from broadband providers operating within the community or region; and
5. Include an assessment of all municipal procedures, policies, rules and ordinances that have the effect of delaying or increasing the cost of broadband infrastructure deployment.

The authority will provide final funding for only plans that comply with the provisions of 35-A MRSA §9217(1)

6. Project Completion and Evaluation. Projects with a total cost of less than $1,500,000 and that have received grant approval, including planning projects, must be completed within one year of receipt of funds from the Authority or within 180 days of all pole licenses and permits or governmental approvals necessary to complete the project, whichever later occurs, unless a waiver is granted by the Authority due to unforeseen circumstances. Projects where the total cost exceeds $1,500,000 will have a contractually agreed to completion schedule. Within one year of receipt of funds from the Authority or of all licenses and permits or governmental approvals necessary to complete the project, whichever later occurs, the recipient must submit a report demonstrating completion, or in the case of a project that has been granted an extension of the one-year time period for completion, a report of progress. Such report must include an itemization of costs for which the Authority's funding was used as well as description of the service or the planning study that has been created through use of the funds.
7. Infrastructure Grant Tracking. For any grants awarded by the Authority for infrastructure deployment project, the grant awardee shall, annually for 5 years from the date of the grant award, provide the Authority data on the infrastructure deployment project that includes the
a. The number of households within the project area that did not have access to broadband service;
b. The percentage of households in the project area that subscribe to broadband service from the grant awardee that is below the effective broadband service level set by the Authority;
c. The percentage of households within the project area that subscribe to broadband service from the grant awardee that is at or above the effective broadband service level set by the Authority;
d. The broadband option from the grant awardee subscribed to by the largest number of customers in the project area;
e. The price and speeds for the following services:
i. The broadband offering with the lowest annual cost;
ii. The broadband offering with the highest upload and download speeds; and
iii. The broadband offering taken by the greatest number of subscribers within the project area;
f. The number of businesses that take service from the grant awardee in the project area; and
g. The total number of businesses in the project area.

Information collected under this subsection shall be considered confidential pursuant to 35-A MRSA §9207. The Authority shall aggregate the data on an annual basis and include aggregated information as deemed appropriate by the Authority in its annual report.

Notes

99-639 C.M.R. ch. 101, § 6

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