MONHEGAN — Monhegan Plantation will use a $626,298 ReConnect Program grant to connect the entire island community in Lincoln County, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in a news release.
Monhegan is home to a school, power district, municipal office, museum, post office, library, and several inns and small businesses. The project’s service area includes 40 households, an educational facility, a critical community facility, 11 pre-subscribed farms, and 15 pre-subscribed businesses.
The grant is one of four grants and a loan distributed by the USDA through a $9.87 million investment in four infrastructure projects that will create or improve rural e-Connectivity for 4,527 households and 215 businesses in rural Maine. This is one of many funding announcements in the first round of USDA’s ReConnect Pilot Program investments, according to the USDA, in a January 30 news release.
“This substantial investment in broadband in Maine will help ensure that these rural, coastal, and island communities can connect to the vital internet services that they depend on," said Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary D.J. LaVoy, in the release. "Upgrading and installing essential broadband infrastructure will improve connectivity for critical first responders and rural businesses. It also will enhance learning opportunities for students, provide access to telehealth services and build prosperity for Maine’s iconic towns.”
The other grant recipients include:
The Town of Arrowsic, which will use a $604,254 ReConnect Program grant and a $604,254 in ReConnect Program loan to construct a fiber-optic broadband network with speeds up to 100 megabytes per second (Mbps) to connect 237 households, 20 pre-subscribed businesses, and four pre-subscribed farms.
The Town of Roque Bluffs, which will use an $893,170 ReConnect Program grant to construct a fiber-optic network to connect 166 households, 22 pre-subscribed farms, and 16 pre-subscribed businesses in Washington County. The network will connect to the Downeast Ring of Maine's "three-ring binder" network backbone in Machias, 4.5 miles from the town line on Roque Bluffs Road.
The Biddeford Internet Corporation, which will use a $3.5 million ReConnect Program grant and a $3.5 million ReConnect Program loan to expand its current gigabit Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) network to connect 4,084 households, 30 pre-subscribed farms, 28 educational facilities, 23 pre-subscribed businesses, 15 health care centers, and 12 critical community facilities in Hebron, Sumner, Hartford, Buckfield, Canton, North Turner, Turner, South Paris, and West Paris.
USDA Rural Development Maine State Director Timothy P. Hobbs said, “This funding is the result of the efforts of Maine’s strong and resilient Maine communities and people, who stepped up to the plate to work with Rural Development to bring essential broadband to their communities. This critical funding will ensure that people living in these towns are connected to the opportunity, promise, and potential that having reliable internet provides.”
In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. On Dec. 13, 2018, Secretary Perdue announced the rules of the program, called “ReConnect,” including how the loans and grants will be awarded to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America. USDA received 146 applications between May 31, 2019, and July 12, 2019, requesting $1.4 billion in funding across all three ReConnect Program funding products: 100 percent loan, 100 percent grant, and loan-grant combinations. USDA is reviewing applications and announcing approved projects on a rolling basis. Additional investments in all three categories will be made in the coming weeks.
These grants, loans and combination funds enable the federal government to partner with the private sector and rural communities to build modern broadband infrastructure in areas with insufficient internet service. Insufficient service is defined as connection speeds of less than 10 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload.
In December 2019, Agriculture Secretary Perdue announced USDA will be making available an additional $550 million in ReConnect funding in 2020. USDA will make available up to $200 million for grants, up to $200 million for 50/50 grant/loan combinations, and up to $200 million for low-interest loans. The application window for this round of funding will open Jan. 31, 2020. Applications for all funding products will be accepted in the same application window, which will close no later than March 16, 2020.
A full description of 2020 ReConnect Pilot Program funding is available on page 67913 of the Dec. 12, 2019, Federal Register (PDF, 336 KB). To learn more about eligibility, technical assistance and recent announcements, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect.
In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force. To view the report in its entirety, view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity(PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, view theRural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov/me.