China broadband committee to try again for grant

by Mary Grow

China Broadband Committee (CBC) members will try again to get a grant to expand broadband service to China residents who are currently underserved or not served at all.

They will again work in partnership with Direct Communications, the Idaho-based company that now owns UniTel, in Unity, with assistance from Mission Broadband, the consultants who have worked with them for several years.

These decisions were the outcome of a March 9 meeting among the parties, the first CBC meeting since last fall, when the first and unsuccessful application was put in final form.

The grants are awarded by the Maine Connectivity Authority (MCA). A letter from the MCA rejecting China’s first application (see the Jan. 12 issue of The Town Line, p. 1) said there had been many more applications than available funds could support.

At the March 9 meeting, John Doherty and Jeff Nevins, from Mission Broadband, and Jayne Sullivan, from Unitel/Direct Communications, discussed two issues that will affect the next round of grants: mapping and revisions to MCA’s grant program.

Mapping involves the accuracy – or inaccuracy – of maps purporting to show where improved service is needed. Doherty said that the first maps were by census block; if one home in a block had excellent internet service, the map showed all the neighbors equally well served.

New maps are being prepared by individual addresses. They are expected to be available by June.

The definition of adequate service is also debated, in terms of capacity, speed and reliability.

Sullivan expects MCA’s application form will be revised. She hopes the updated forms will be available by June; the application deadline is currently some so-far-unspecified time in August (which, Doherty pointed out, is a month when people are likely to be on vacation).

Bob O’Connor

Unitel/Direct prepared China’s previous application; CBC members authorized them to prepare a new one, at least in outline pending more information from MCA. Sullivan said the goal is “a winnable application.”

CBC chairman Robert O’Connor had drafted a document that he intended as part of a new application. Sullivan accepted it as useful local input for MCA reviewers; she and O’Connor will continue discussion by email as necessary.

The expectation is that MCA will still require a local funding match, toward which China voters have approved Tax Increment Financing funds.

The next CBC meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday, April 27.






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