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Posted October 22, 2021 by Jericho Casper

Earlier this month, a plan to bring fiber connectivity to four towns in Knox County, Maine (pop. 39,500) spearheaded by the MidCoast Internet Development Corporation (MIDC) was dealt a major blow when Knox County Commissioners denied MIDC’s request to use the county's American Rescue Plan funds to pay for network construction.

During a Knox County Commission meeting on Tuesday, October 12, after County Commissioners repeatedly barred local municipal leaders from commenting on broadband-related issues, they voted unanimously against awarding any of the county’s $7.7 million in American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds to municipal broadband projects or any project benefiting an individual municipality.

County Commissioners assembled to consider 58 ARPA project applications submitted by nonprofit and municipal entities, all vying for a portion of the county’s Rescue Plan funds. But, the meeting took an unexpected turn when one Knox County Commissioner accused representatives from the MIDC, a regional broadband utility formed by four Knox County towns, of “bullying” the Commissioners into spending the county’s Rescue Plan funds on regional and municipal broadband projects. 

After County Commissioner Dorothy Meriwether voiced her displeasure for how local community broadband advocates pursued the funding, three local Select Board members were not permitted to speak in support of MIDC. Adding insult to injury, the Commissioners then welcomed a representative from Charter Spectrum to talk for nearly 30 minutes.

Knox County Commissioners are now getting pushback from local municipal leaders and their constituents who are accusing the Commissioners of not adhering to the budget approval process mandated by the county charter and failing to represent constituents in the county’s ARPA funding priorities. They also say the County Commissioners are in violation of Maine state law for forgoing a public comment period.

At the meeting’s conclusion, Knox County Commissioners had informally awarded $4.1 million of the county’s ARPA funds to project proposals addressing affordable housing and food distribution. Yet, some municipal leaders refuse to go quietly into the night, skeptical...

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Posted September 8, 2021 by Maren Machles

In Larimer County, at the northern end of the Front Range in Colorado, county officials are looking to secure between $5 million and $30 million in federal grant money to expand broadband access into underserved areas. Last month, the County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved up to a 10 percent match, or up to $3 million, if the county is awarded the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) grant.

The Fort Collins-based engineering and construction firm Ditesco has been hired by the county to help apply for the grant. Ditesco has a track record in the county for successfully supporting broadband projects, helping both Fort Collins, the seat of Larimer County, and Loveland with the engineering and managing of their networks. 

During a presentation at the county board meeting in early August, Nathan Hoople, senior project manager for Ditesco told the board of commissioners there are 10 high priority areas where these funds could be used. This phase could potentially serve 7,300 premises, with about 3,000 to 4,000 households expected to sign up for county broadband. 

The county’s plan is to fund the expansion of the existing municipal fiber networks in Loveland (Pulse Broadband) and Fort Collins (Fort Collins Conexon) into some of these high priority areas.

“Our strategy is to build from where we have existing service providers and start expanding out,” Mark Pfaffinger, Larimer County Chief Information Officer said at the meeting. “Our goal is not just to stop here, but to fill in all the other areas that are currently identified as areas of need.” 

We’ve been reporting on the push for broadband expansion in Larimer County since 2017 when the county was awarded with a $82,000 grant from the State of Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Broadband Program to conduct a feasibility study.

While some cities in Larimer County have built their own fiber-to...

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Posted July 19, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

The winners of the Truist EPIC grant program, which we wrote about earlier this year, have been announced.

47 projects applied for the funds. Innovative, community-centered projects in Florida and Alabama will be taking home money. So too is Wilson, North Carolina for an expansion of its municipal network, Greenlight. The awards will be distributed by the Internet Society:

Five recipients will share $1 million in grant funding to expand broadband access in their communities as part of the Truist Expanding Potential in Communities (EPIC) Grant. The grant program supports broadband initiatives to help alleviate disparities in education, employment and social welfare in the Southeastern United States.

The grants are "directed toward supporting community networks built, owned and operated by local governments and organizations." 

The full list includes:

  • The Duval County Public Schools will receive $180,000 for Project OVERCOME21, a plan to turn schools in the Florida district into local broadband hubs for the surrounding community. The hubs boost signals to a three-mile radius and connect to the school district’s existing network.
  • The Tuskegee Housing Authority will receive nearly $180,000 for its Jesup “Cyber Wagon” Project in Tuskegee, Ala. The project will provide broadband access to low-income, Black communities where a lack of Internet has hindered access to health, education and other services.
  • The City of Wilson, N.C., has been granted nearly $180,000 to expand North Carolina’s Community Broadband fiber-to-the-home into a rural, majority Black community in Wilson County.
  • The City of Williston, Fla., will receive $108,000 for its broadband program, COWLink, to support efforts to improve access and speed of broadband for local businesses, schools and homes.
  • Wave 7 Communications will receive more than $150,000 to connect residents of Enfield, N.C. and outlying rural areas, train digital stewards and provide online learning to residents.

In a press release, Internet Society Regional Vice President for...

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