This guide helps you identify funding opportunities for a broadband development project in your community. Below you will find information for funding the three interconnected pillars of broadband: planning, digital equity, and infrastructure.
Funding for broadband projects is used to pay for "Planning", "Digital Equity", and "Infrastructure" and originates from three main sources:
local funds, private investments, and public programs
Acquiring local funds to help fund your project is always an important and fruitful objective. Local funds may or may not cover the majority of your projects costs, but they always increase the likelihood of success. If your town plans to own the infrastructure that you are building, then a significant portion of the funding will likely need to come from your community. If not, then private provider investment will likely serve as the most significant chunk. No matter the specific amount, getting local funds will always improve outcomes by demonstrating sincere commitment to interested providers and government grantors. Here are the sources of local funds:
Town revenues, bonds, loans, Coronavirus Recovery Funds (ARPA), or philanthropic donations (do not underestimate this one!)
Private investment will vary greatly depending on the ownership model that you have chosen for your project, but often covers around 50% of the costs of construction.
Funds from federal and state programs will serve to fill the difference between the cost of your project and what your effort has raised from "Local Funds" and "Private Investments." Typically, these dollars will be the last ones to appear on the table. Grants for this sizable contribution will flflow through the Maine Connectivity Authority and can cover more than half of the total project costs.
Oftentimes there are smaller costs associated with planning a broadband project than with other parts of the process. However, those costs are real and, if not given appropriate attention, can put up unexpected barriers. Costs for things like hosting a website, hiring a grant writer, paying for a consultant analysis, and mailing out information about your community effort can all be covered by funding through a planning grant.
Planning grants usually fund costs in the range of $5,000 - $20,000
Generally, private providers will not contribute to planning costs, however, local funds and public programs should be considered as good sources for these funds. There are several organizations that will fund your community's broadband planning needs:
Grantors: Maine Connectivity Authority, The Maine Community Foundation, ...
The line between planning and digital equity is generally a blurry one, but funding organizations tend to separate them into distinct categories. Ensuring broadband equity usually involves three principal topics: monthly costs, devices & equipment, and education. There are billions of dollars available to assist U.S. communities with this aspect of their network.
Digital equity grants have a broad range that is usually dependent on the size of the community and the existing need. Individual towns might receive $10,000, counties could get closer to $100,000, and equity organizations are eligible for millions of dollars.
Digital equity funds can come from a range of places:
The federal Affordable Connectivity Program provides subsidies for low income subscribers ($30 off their monthly bill).
Some communities pledge local funds to support affordability for their residents.
Private providers occasionally have programs that lower the cost of internet.
Grantors: Maine Connectivity Authority, Maine Community Foundation, National Digital Equity Center, Private Providers
Once your plan is well defined, you can begin to organize the sources of funding that will pay for the largest cost of the project: infrastructure construction.
Infrastructure for broadband is expensive at around $30,000 per mile, but still far less than other public projects (roads cost $1 million a mile). A broadband project for your community might cost anywhere from $100,000 to several million dollars.
Local funds will likely be the first to appear on the table. Whether your community decides to own the network will dictate how much of the funding will come from local sources.
Private providers will be the next place to look for additional funding. If a private company is going to own your project they can be expected to pay 40-75% of the total buildout cost.
Once local funds and private funds are accounted for, you will be looking for a way to fund the difference. The Maine Connectivity Authority is the primary grantor in Maine for infrastructure.