Island Institute’s Rural Community Engagement Amplifies Maine’s Broadband Efforts

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

digital beat


The Island Institute is dedicated to supporting Maine’s island and coastal communities, helping them address pressing environmental and socio-economic issues and leading by example in sustainability. With a focus on building resilient economies, this philanthropic institution works with community leaders to increase broadband expansion in rural areas. As the most rural state in the country – with mountains, coastlines and islands – Maine faces an enormous economic challenge to connect every resident to reliable high-speed internet service.

The Island Institute Broadband Team engages with community leaders through working groups, financial and economic training and conferences, and by facilitating discussions between community members, local officials and Internet service providers. Through the Tom Glenn Community Impact Fund, the Island Institute provides broadband planning grants to Maine municipalities, local institutions, and nonprofit organizations.

After years of working with rural Maine communities, the Island Institute developed the Community-Driven Broadband Process to help guide community leaders through the steps to bring broadband to their cities and residents. . This process has guided more than 100 Maine communities as they begin conversations about digital equity, and it has served as a model for 20 of those communities looking for fiber-to-the-home networks or expansions. infrastructure through public-private partnerships.

The Island Institute also works with two recently merged national broadband authorities: the ConnectMaine Authority (ConnectME), created in 2006, and the Maine Connectivity Authority, created in 2021. They recently joined forces to provide a streamlined approach to communities and ISPs seeking to expand broadband service. The Maine Connectivity Authority, through a contract with ConnectME, provides grants and resources to support community readiness. He continues to actively develop mapping platforms that will support the prioritization of infrastructure funding and deployment across the state. The Maine Connectivity Authority also seeks to achieve universal broadband in Maine, but has the ability to own physical infrastructure and manage partnerships.

Maine’s broadband work is bolstered by a group of diverse community organizations across the state that formed the Maine Broadband Coalition (MBC) in 2015. Island Institute has played a leadership role in MBC from the start.

By collaborating with the Island Institute and the Maine Broadband Coalition, national broadband authorities are able to share knowledge, engage with rural communities, and guide communities through grant applications. Kendra Jo Grindle, former senior community development officer at the Island Institute and now the Maine Connectivity Authority, said, “Engaging the whole community in the process, learning from others and working with [state] and nonprofit partners can help cities leverage the availability of public funding and their unique assets to bring universal high-speed Internet access” to Maine communities.

Many thanks to Peggy Schaffer, former director of the ConnectME Authority, for her help with this article.

Adrianne B. Furniss is Executive Director of the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.

More in this series

These articles and more in Pathways to Digital Equity: How Communities Can Reach Their Broadband Goals—and How Philanthropy Can Help

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a nonprofit organization that works to ensure that everyone in the United States has access to competitive, high-performance broadband, regardless of where they live or who they belong to. We believe that the communications policy – rooted in the values ​​of access, equity and diversity – has the power to provide new opportunities and strengthen communities.

© Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 2022. Redistribution of this publication via e-mail – both internally and externally – is encouraged if it incorporates this copyright statement.

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Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Editor-in-Chief, Communications Titles
Benton Institute
for broadband and society
1041 Ridge Road, Unit 214
Wilmette, Illinois 60091
AT benton DOT org titles

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