The state of Maine has awarded $36 million in broadband funding to four providers to cover some of the costs of deploying high-speed broadband to rural areas where such service is not currently available. Deployment costs in rural areas often are so high that there is no business case for investment unless additional funding is made available to cover some of those costs.

Awardees also will contribute to project costs. The awards are expected to make service available to 24,000 homes and businesses.

The awards were made through two funding programs – a middle-mile program and Connect the Ready, which focuses on the last mile. The middle-mile projects may have some costs covered by other public sources of funding, as well as by awardees.

Consolidated was the biggest winner in the announcement and is slated to take home over $17 million in funding, including more than $10 million for four last-mile deployments and over $7 million for middle-mile infrastructure.

The next biggest winner was Unitel/Direct Communications, a company established last year when Direct Communications bought Unitel. Both companies are rural providers that were established decades ago: Unitel in 1902 and Direct Communications in 1954.

The combined company will receive over $10 million from the Connect the Ready program.

The other two companies awarded funding were FirstLight, which will take home over $5.6 million, and GWI, which will take home almost $3 million.

The awardees announced yesterday will contribute a combined $25.2 million to total project costs, including $11 million for Connect the Ready awards and $14.2 million for middle mile awards.

“These grants demonstrate how communities, anchor institutions and internet service providers across the state are working together to connect Mainers to high-quality, affordable internet,” said Andrew Butcher, president of the Maine Connectivity Authority, in a prepared statement.

 hey represent a true partnership between the public and private sectors as MCA proactively deploys all solutions to get everyone online to close Maine’s digital divide.”

The Maine Connectivity Authority administers Maine broadband programs.

Funding for the programs came through the Capital Projects Fund and through the Maine Jobs and Recovery Program.

Additional information about the awards made yesterday, including deployment communities, locations to be served, matching funds and more can be found in the announcement.

Additional information about Maine broadband, including links to program rules and awards made, as well as previous Telecompetitor coverage, can be found on the Broadband Nation webpage for the state.

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