Zayo was the biggest winner in the NTIA Middle Mile awards to be announced today. The company is slated to receive $92.8 million of $930 million awarded through the program for three separate projects touching eight states.

Awardees will invest more than $848 million in additional funding toward total construction costs. All projects use fiber as the primary technology.

There were 32 winners in the program, including Hawaiian Telcom, which won over $37 million, and numerous fiber network operators. The funding will go toward networks in 35 states.

The funding awarded virtually exhausts the program’s $1 billion budget. According to an NTIA press release, the agency received over 260 applications requesting a total of nearly $7.5 billion.

The biggest single award was for $88.9 million to QSH Parent Holdco LLC for a project in Alaska.

Alan Davidson, assistant secretary of commerce for communication and information, and Mitch Landrieu, senior advisor to President Biden, shared the news in a briefing with reporters late yesterday. Davidson called the program a “force multiplier” and noted that the middle mile projects “will connect communities across the country to the kinds of affordable internet service that we know that they need.”

NTIA Middle Mile Awards

Among the funding winners were at least two statewide networks owned or used and initially built and initially used by consortia of small providers. The statewide networks include Dakota Carrier Network of North Dakota, which won $19.7 million) and Missouri Network Alliance, better known as Bluebird Network.

Bluebird won awards totaling $41 million for two projects, including one in Missouri and one touching Missouri and Oklahoma.

Several power companies also won funding, including Illinois’ Commonwealth Edison, Indiana Michigan Power Company, MidAmerican Energy Company, Baltimore Gas & Electric, Concho Valley Electric Cooperative, Appalachian Power Company, and Dairyland Power Cooperative.

Also winning funding were government entities such as California Department of Technology; Kansas Department of Commerce; State of Maine; State of Nevada; County of Cumberland, NJ; and Development Authority of the North Country, NY.

The fiber network operators that won funding included several whose names may be familiar to Telecompetitor readers. Some of them and their award information:

Point System

Awards were made based on a point system as follows:

  • The extent to which the project will either facilitate deployment of high-speed broadband to unserved or underserved areas or improve affordability in already-served markets (20 points)
  • Whether the project will offer non-discriminatory interconnection in perpetuity, which must include both the ability to connect to the public internet and physical interconnection for traffic exchange (10 points)
  • Whether the provider commits to offering access to the funded middle mile infrastructure, in perpetuity, on an open access basis (10 points)
  • The extent to which the project will otherwise benefit the proposed service area, including but not limited to facilitating development of carrier-neutral interconnection facilities, improving the resiliency of existing middle-mile infrastructure or including direct interconnect facilities that will facilitate the provision of broadband to anchor institutions within 1,000 feet of the middle mile infrastructure at speeds of at least 1 Gbps symmetrically (10 points)
  • Comprehensiveness and appropriateness of the proposed technical solution for meeting the community’s needs. Reviewers will favorably score projects that are “shovel ready” and capable of completion within a two-year period (10 points)
  • Applicant’s organizational capability to complete the project (5 points)
  • Reasonableness of the applicant’s proposed budget (10 points)
  • Project’s fiscal sustainability beyond the award period (10 points)
  • Applicant’s commitment to contribute a non-federal cost share of more than 30% of total eligible project costs (5 points for a non-federal share between 30% and 40%, 10 points for a non-federal share between 41% and 50%, 15 points for more than 50% non-federal share)

Projects scoring 80 or higher had their scores multiplied by a weighting factor between 1 and 1.8  based on applicants’ proposed use of community benefit agreements and on applicants’ ability to demonstrate:

  • The likelihood of material reduction in end user broadband prices resulting from the project
  • The likelihood of material reduction in latency for end users in remote or insular areas
  • Substantial benefits stemming from the middle mile network that will accrue to high-poverty counties, persistent poverty counties and/or a substantial number of end users that have household income at or below 200% of federal poverty guidelines, that have one or more household members meeting the qualifications of certain government support programs or that qualify for a participating provider’s existing low-income internet program
  • Substantial benefits that will accrue to previously unserved locations or Tribal lands
  • That the project route is designed to enable connection of unserved anchor institutions
  • Compliance with certain fair labor, skilled and equitable workforce, job quality objectives and civil rights and non-discrimination law compliance
  • The climate resilience of the project

An NTIA spokesperson told Telecompetitor that the agency could not provide the minimum number of points that winning projects received.

A complete list of funding winners with project details is available at this link.

Updated with link to NTIA awards page and to state that the state broadband networks are owned or used and initially were built by consortia of small providers.

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