$930 Million in Grants Announced in Biden’s Effort to Expand Internet Access to Every Home in the U.S.

The massive federal effort to expand Internet access Every home in the United States took a major step forward Friday with the announcement of $930 million in grants to support connections in remote parts of Alaska, rural Texas and dozens of other places where significant gaps in connectivity persist.

The so-called average mile grants, announced by the Department of Commerce, are intended to build large-scale networks that will allow retail broadband providers to connect subscribers to the Internet. Department officials likened the role of the average mile, the central section of infrastructure needed to enable Internet access, made up of high-capacity fiber lines that carry huge amounts of data at very high speeds, to how the interstate highway system forged connections between communities.

These networks are workhorses that carry large amounts of data over very long distances, said Mitch Landrieu, the White House infrastructure coordinator, in a Media Zoom call. They are the ones who are bridging the gap between the largest networks and last-mile connections, from tribal lands to rural and remote underserved areas to essential institutions such as hospitals, schools, libraries and large corporations.

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Grants have been awarded to a cross section of state government agencies, tribal governments, and telephone and electric cooperatives. They are intended to trigger the laying of 12,000 miles (19,300 kilometers) of new fiber across 35 states and Puerto Rico.

The largest grant, of nearly $89 million, was awarded to an Alaska-based telecommunications company that hopes to build a fiber network across a remote section of the state where about 55 percent of people have no Internet access Basic.

The expansion is one of several congressional initiatives pushed by President Joe Biden’s administration to expand high-speed Internet connectivity across the country.

The Middle Mile program is a force multiplier in our efforts to connect everyone in America, said Assistant Secretary of Commerce Alan Davidson. These grants will help build the foundation of networks that will in turn connect every home in the country to affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service.

The grants were set in motion by the $65 billion Congressional budget for broadband as part of the $1 trillion infrastructure measure Biden, a Democrat, signed the law into law in 2021. Most of that money, $42.5 billion, will be distributed to states as part of the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment, or BEAD, program, based in part on new maps federal that identify the areas that are not connected. .

State awards from BEAD are expected to be announced later this month. States will then run their own programs to identify recipients who will then build last mile networks to underserved communities.

Winners of the average mile grants announced on Friday will have up to five years to complete their projects once they receive those funds, though a one-year extension may be requested under certain conditions.


Harjai reported from Los Angeles.

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