On Friday, the Biden administration unveiled a substantial sum of $930 million in grants aimed at expanding broadband internet access in rural areas. These grants, part of the Department of Commerce’s “Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program,” will be utilized to deploy over 12,000 miles of new fiber optic cable across 35 states as well as Puerto Rico. The administration expressed its expectation that grant recipients would contribute an additional $848.46 million, effectively doubling the program’s impact.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo compared the program’s significance to the interstate highway system, which connected communities nationwide to regional and national highway networks. She stated, “This program will help us connect communities across the country to regional and national networks that provide quality, affordable high-speed internet access.”
The Middle Mile Grant Program received more than 260 applications, requesting a total of $7.47 billion in funding, according to the Commerce Department. Telecom and utility companies were the primary beneficiaries of the grants, although funding was also allocated for tribal governments and nonprofits. The largest grant, valued at $88.8 million, was awarded to a telecommunications company in Alaska to construct a fiber optic network in an area where 55 percent of residents lack internet access. On average, most applicants received $26.6 million in grants. Grant recipients have a five-year period to complete their projects, although the administration hopes that many of the network expansions will be finished sooner.
Aside from generating new economic prospects for underserved communities, the government anticipates that these projects will enhance safety in these areas. White House infrastructure coordinator Mitch Landrieu explained that they can improve network resilience in the face of the climate crisis and natural disasters such as wildfires, floods, and storms. This will be achieved by creating multiple routes for internet traffic, similar to detours on a freeway.
The funding initiative represents one of several recent endeavors by the government to bridge the rural digital divide. In early 2022, the Federal Communications Commission introduced an accountability program to ensure that recipients of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund utilize their funds appropriately.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about rural internet access
What is the purpose of the grants announced by the Biden administration?
The grants announced by the Biden administration have the purpose of expanding rural access to broadband internet through the deployment of fiber optic cable in various states.
How much funding has been allocated for the grants?
A total of $930 million has been allocated for the grants to enhance rural internet access.
What is the “Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program”?
The “Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program” is a program under the Department of Commerce that focuses on funding the deployment of fiber optic cable to expand broadband connectivity in rural areas.
How many miles of fiber optic cable will be deployed through these grants?
These grants will fund the deployment of over 12,000 miles of new fiber optic cable across 35 states and Puerto Rico.
Who are the recipients of these grants?
The grants are primarily awarded to telecom and utility companies. However, funding has also been set aside for tribal governments and nonprofits.
How will these grants benefit underserved communities?
The grants aim to create economic opportunities and improve safety in traditionally underserved communities by providing quality, affordable high-speed internet access.
What is the timeframe for completing the projects funded by these grants?
Grant recipients have a five-year period to complete their projects, although the administration hopes for earlier completion of the network expansions.
How does the program address the impact of natural disasters?
The program enhances network resilience in the face of climate crises and natural disasters by creating multiple routes for internet traffic, similar to detours on a freeway.
More about rural internet access
- Biden administration announces $930 million in grants to expand rural internet access
- Department of Commerce – Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program
- Commerce Department’s Middle Mile Grant Program
- Gizmodo – Largest grant goes to telecommunications company in Alaska
- White House – Infrastructure coordinator highlights the program’s benefits
- Federal Communications Commission – Rural Digital Opportunity Fund