APPLETON — In Appleton, they’re hoping the third time is a charm when it comes to paying for much needed upgrades in internet service.

After two prior failures at securing funds, the town’s hopes now rest on a window that just opened for a new round of federal grant money earmarked for creating and extending broadband service in Maine’s communities.

“We are hoping this one will go through. We’re just crossing our fingers,” said Select Board Vice Chair Peter Beckett. Beckett serves on the town’s broadband committee and has been a steady advocate for the best possible internet services for all residents.

“This is the third time, so hopefully the third will be lucky. We don’t give up,” he said. Previous attempts to get grant funds from Knox County and ConnectME both failed, he said.

On Oct. 18, Maine Connectivity Authority opened the application process for the new Connect the Ready Program. Competitive grants will distribute $70 million to public and private partners such as governmental entities, broadband utility districts, and internet service providers, according to an MCA press release.

“This initiative will support partners’ efforts to proactively and collaboratively design, fund, and build broadband infrastructure projects in eligible areas. The program will prioritize the deployment of broadband infrastructure in mostly unserved communities, including some of the most rural and remote around the state,” the Authority announced.

It is all federal money, part of $357 million approved by the U.S. Treasury Department for broadband projects in Maine and three other states through the American Rescue Plan Act’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund, according to the trade website, Telecompetitor.com. The other states are Kansas, Maryland, and Minnesota.

“Maine was approved for $110 million. The funding will connect about 22,500 homes and businesses. The grant will support the Maine Infrastructure Ready program to extend existing or create new networks,” according to Telecompetitor.com.

Tidewater Telecom is spearheading the effect to secure funds and has begun work on a grant application due by Oct. 28.

The firm completed a “significant rollout” of fiber optic internet service to all Appleton roads in its coverage area in 2021, with the help of a grant from ConnectME, according to the Appleton town website.

But six other roads were not upgraded because they are in the Consolidated Communications service area and that firm plans no upgrades, Beckett said.

Service for those approximately 45 families has been miserable, according to public comments and emails read into the record of a recent Select Board meeting.

“We’ve done such a great job getting it into the rest of town, to not have it (in one area) just doesn’t feel right,” Beckett said.

The roads still awaiting upgrades from DSL to broadband service are Collinstown road south of Burkettville Road, Campground, Mitchell Hill, Fishtown and Esancy roads and Hatchery Lane.

Tidewater already has the “backbone” of fiber optics running through Appleton, so all that is needed to reach the remaining families are line extensions, precisely what the funding is for in the grant program to which Tidewater will apply, according to Alan Hinsey, marketing and sales director for the Maine firm.

It’s called the Get Ready program and will distribute $30 million of Maine’s total share of ARPA fund earmarked for broadband to help the state’s communities.

Funding awards that are good for a year are expected to be announced Dec 8, after which it could take up to nine months to plan and complete the upgrades, Hinsey said.

That is due in part to the fact that the lines and poles on those six roads belong to Consolidated, which has to give permission for Tidewater to use its facilities, he said.

“It’s a totally different process and they have to get approvals to go into an area they don’t serve,” Beckett explained.

And while no one knows yet how much grant money might be available to Appleton, the project also will need contributions from both Appleton and Tidewater, Hinsey said. He expects to meet soon with the Town Select Board to update them on progress and discuss a town contribution, he said.

For his part, Becket said he wants to see Appleton commit the same $66,000 (of its ARPA funds) to this grant as it had earmarked for the failed grant application Tidewater made to ConnectME, MCA’s predecessor.

Established in 2021, the Maine Connectivity Authority is a quasi-governmental agency charged with achieving universal access of affordable high-speed broadband in Maine, according to its website.