More than 235 applications totaling more than $5.5 billion have been submitted to the National Telecommunications and Infrastructure Administration’s (NTIA) Enabling Middle Mile Infrastructure Grant Program. The program has a budget of $1 billion.
The NTIA – which is part of the Department of Commerce – said that the assessments are based on preliminary data. The NTIA also announced that it has issued a temporary waiver on the program deadline for areas that experienced natural disasters.
The middle mile grant program was created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which is also referred to as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act. The program is designed to cover some of the costs to construct networks that will interconnect communities. The goal is to reduce the cost of bringing Internet services to communities.
The program is part of a group of initiatives informally known as Internet for All.
“Middle mile infrastructure is the connective tissue that links the networks that serve homes and businesses,” Alan Davidson, the NTIA’s Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, said in a press release. “NTIA’s Middle Mile Program is a force multiplier for connectivity and will be essential to delivering a cost-efficient Internet for All. The volume of applications we received demonstrates the high demand for increasing middle mile capacity throughout the country.”
Middle mile networks “do not connect directly to an end user location and include leased dark fiber, interoffice transport, backhaul, carrier-neutral internet exchange facilities, carrier-neutral submarine cable landing stations, undersea cables, transport connectivity to data centers, special access transport, and similar services,” according to the NTIA. These networks can encompass wired or private wireless broadband infrastructure, including microwave capacity, radio tower access and other services.
The deadline for applications was September 30, with award announcements expected to begin next March. However, the deadline can be extended for applications from Puerto Rico and parts of Florida, South Carolina and Alaska that were hit with natural disasters. The new deadline for those applications is 11:59 PM EDT on November 1. Entities seeking the waiver should contact the NTIA.
At that time, the NTIA issued 88 pages of guidance for those planning to apply. The NTIA said that individual awards for between $5 million and $100 million are expected.