FAYETTE — The town of Fayette will join Wilton and numerous other rural towns in Franklin County and Maine in its push to bring rural communities up to speed with broadband coverage through the Maine Connectivity Authority’s grant programs.

Fayette will receive $1,875,000 through the Connect the Ready grant program issued by MCA, according to a press release.

Fayette was able to attain grant funding in cooperation with Consolidated Communications Inc [CCI] which will be used to establish broadband coverage to approximately 440 homes and businesses in the region.

“We are greatly appreciative of the work by the MCA staff that has led to the recommendation of an internet service provider committed to serving every resident,” Fayette Town Manager Mark Robinson said in a press release.

Robinson went on to say the road to secure the grant funding was at times “arduous”, but the town will be “greatly relieved” once the project sees completion. According to the release, Fayette was originally working with internet service provider Matrix Design Group, who was awarded the grant funding in early 2023.

Matrix would ultimately decline the award in December later that year, citing its inability to “fulfill the grant requirements.”


Fayette joins Wilton, who was also working with Matrix Design Group in securing a grant proposal through MCA. Former town manager Perry Ellsworth began working with Matrix Design Group in November of 2022, and the proposal was accepted by MCA in the summer of 2023.

The Wilton Board of Selectpersons accepted the grant in July, although Brian Lippold of Casco Bay Advisors LLC advised against it at a previous meeting, citing the feasibility of the market share conditions in the grant requirements.

“The grant from the MCA requires the town to demonstrate that at least 50% of the potential subscriber locations have signed up for service,” Lippold said at that meeting.

Lauren Cassle, account manager from Matrix Design Group, assured the Select Board at the meeting in July that 50% market share was feasible, even with multiple competing providers.

Despite this, Ellsworth shared with the Select Board at a meeting in November 2023 Matrix had failed to come close to achieving a 50% market share.

“We haven’t been able to achieve anywhere close to that,” Ellsworth said at that meeting, stating 50% market share in the town would amount to 700 households.


Over in Fayette, Robinson shared with the Livermore Falls Advertiser market share was not an issue and the town far exceeded expectations. He clarified that it was several other factors that resulted in Matrix dropping out.

“In declining their award,” Andrew Butcher, president of the MCA, wrote in a release, “Matrix cited their challenges in managing the income tax revenue associated with the grants.”

In February of this year, Lippold shared with Wilton Select Board that CCI would be picking up the grant. Through the Reach Me grant, $311,000 will be distributed to CCI and Wilton with the purpose of connecting approximately 169 hard-to-reach locations, which will require the installation of underground infrastructure.

“With this new agreement, 100% of the residents of Wilton will have access to a new fiber optic network that CCI is deploying,” Lippold stating, adding that no additional cost will come to the town.

Funding for the Connect the Ready and Reach Me Programs was made available through the American Rescue Plan Capital Projects Fund, which provided $10 billion for “payments to eligible governments to carry out critical capital projects that directly enable work, education, and health monitoring, including remote options, in response to the public health emergency.”

Originally known as The ConnectMaine Authority, MCA was awarded a $28 million grant by the U.S. Department of Commerce to bring broadband service to thousands of unserved homes across the state in February of 2022.


Gov. Janet Mills dedicated $21 million through her Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, which, when combined with the $129 million through the American Rescue Plan, provided more than $150 million to MCA to expand access to affordable broadband.

That same month, CCI announced it would be partnering with MCA with the support of a $18.3 million grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration [NTIA].

In June of 2023, Maine was able to secure $272 million in federal funds to expand broadband services from a $42 billion package that was aimed at delivering high-speed connectivity across the United States. Of all the New England states, Maine received the highest amount in funding.

“Maine’s allocation was larger than other New England states because the scale of the problem we’re working to address is the largest,” Brian Allenby, director of program operations and communications for MCA, shared with the Portland Press Herald.

Allenby shared the data backing up this information, stating more than 42,000 homes and businesses in Maine currently have no connection to the internet, which is more than Vermont [33,646], New Hampshire [25,572], Massachusetts [12,522], Connecticut [11,693], and Rhode Island [2,309].

It was announced in February that Maine would be the first state to receive approval from NTIA for the state’s Digital Equity Plan, which outlines the steps to expand access to high-speed, reliable internet and break down barriers to connections.


According to Allenby, the plan is the first step to qualify for federal funding between $12 million and $14 million, which will fund computers and other devices, refurbishing equipment, and instruction for those who are unfamiliar with the internet.

For Franklin County, the increased amount of funding has finally brought the Franklin County Broadband Initiative’s goal to fruition, with Charlie Woodworth, executive director of Greater Franklin Economic & Community Development, sharing with the Wilton Select Board in March that approximately 98% of Franklin County will have access to broadband and fiber optic internet services in some form by mid-summer.

“In 2017, the Franklin County Broadband Initiative was established by citizen leaders who saw that obtaining reliable high-speed broadband throughout the county was going to be the keystone to allowing for community and economic growth,” Woodworth said in a press release.

“By the end of 2024, 98% of the county will be able to connect to fiber,” he added. “Thanks to the early vision of Connect Maine and now the funding through Maine Connectivity Authority, I believe that we are leading the state in this metric.”

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