By Tracy Scheckel
The ConnectMaine Authority has opened its first grant round since the voters approved the $15 million bond in July 2020. In this round there are 2 different applications with 2 different due dates:
Provider Expansion Projects – Due April 12, 2021
The applicant here is a provider planning to extend existing infrastructure to address coverage gaps, extending existing lines or filling in ‘dark pockets’ between existing infrastructure.
Community Driven Broadband Projects – Due April 29, 2021
The applicant here can be a community, a provider, or a collaboration of both the community and the provider for expansion projects that provide universal broadband that will meet current and future community needs.
One difference in the applications is the due date: In the case of provider driven proposals, it’s assumed that the provider has already established that there are no other providers planning to or already providing adequate broadband in the project location and therefore these applications do not require additional time to confirm such information. On the other hand, the community driven projects, depending on whether there was a formal planning project, may need some additional time to confirm that there are no other providers providing or planning to provide adequate service in the proposed project area.
Both applications ask for detailed narratives to provide general information about the applicant, the eligibility of the area to be served, an executive summary, the cost benefit of the project, the level of community support for the project, the project scope, and the project value. Answering these questions clearly and concisely is critical to a successful application.
Although the 6 sections of each application are the same, there are some scoring differences to be aware of due to the basic differences in the Provider Expansion approach and Community Driven initiatives. This table provides a comparison.
This table provides a very general overview of the scoring criteria and sliding scales where applicable. A more detailed breakdown of specific scoring for each category is provided in each of the applications. What this table may do is help you decide which application is best to submit for your specific project as some projects may fall into either application category and may score better in one over the other.
At its Grant Application Workshop on March 10th, the Authority shared this slide with questions you might ask yourself that may also help determine which application would be most beneficial for your project.
No matter which application you decide to submit, the most important thing to remember is to follow the application instructions and format and to be as clear and thorough as possible with all the narrative elements.