- Granting Agency: National Telecommunications and Information Administration
- Appropriation Amount: $980 Million
- Grant Amount: $5-100 Million, 30% Match
- Announcement Date: May 13, 2022
- Closing Date: September 30, 2022
Purpose: The BIL established the Middle Mile Grant Program to complement other programs focused on internet connectivity and digital equity. Middle mile infrastructure does not reach the end user’s location, but typically aggregates large quantities of traffic for carriage between networks. The variety of middle mile arrangements is broad. Middle mile infrastructure might carry traffic via undersea cable to remote locations such as Hawaii or American territories and possessions elsewhere in the Pacific, may “backhaul” wireless traffic via a fiber-optic link from an antenna mounted on a tower to the provider’s wired network, may bring the internet to previously unserved Tribal or Native lands, or may simply connect neighboring towns. Middle mile service, moreover, might be offered by a wide range of entities,
from traditional retail Internet Service Providers, large technology companies that do not offer retail broadband at all, or electric utilities that increasingly recognize their capability to transform the communications market. Regardless of who deploys and operates them, middle mile connections are crucial to connectivity and competition.
Recognizing the middle mile’s central importance, Congress appropriated $1 billion for the
MMG Program and identified two key objectives:
- “Encourage the expansion and extension of middle mile infrastructure to reduce the cost of connecting unserved and underserved areas to the backbone of the internet” and
- “Promote broadband connection resiliency through the creation of alternative network connection paths that can be designed to prevent single points of failure on a broadband network.”
Based on the scope of the MMG Program, below are non-exclusive examples of eligible uses of MMG Program funds:
a. Construction, improvement, and/or acquisition of facilities and telecommunications equipment required to deploy middle mile broadband facilities;
b. Engineering design, permitting and work related to environmental, historical and cultural reviews;
c. Personnel costs, including salaries and fringe benefits for staff and consultants required for the implementation of the MMG Program (such as project managers, program directors, subject matter experts, grant administrators, financial analysts, accountants, and attorneys);
d. Reasonable, post-NOFO, pre-application expenses in an amount not to exceed $50,000. Pre-application expenses, which include expenses related to preparing an application, may be reimbursed if they are incurred after the publication date of this NOFO and prior to the date of issuance of the grant award from NTIA, except that lobbying costs and contingency fees are not reimbursable from grant funds. These costs should be clearly identified in the proposed project budget and must be approved by NTIA and the Grants Officer in writing to be considered allowable. Additionally, pre-application costs are incurred at the sole risk of the applicant and will not be reimbursed by NTIA if the proposed project does not receive an award pursuant to this program; and
e. Other costs necessary to carrying out programmatic activities of an award, not to include ineligible costs described below in Section IV.I.2 of the NOFO.
The MMG Program will prioritize applications that meet at least two of the following five criteria:
1. The eligible entity adopts fiscally sustainable middle mile strategies. (In particular, applicants should submit with their application financial studies, analyses, or other materials demonstrating that reasonably anticipated revenues associated with middle mile projects that are constructed, improved, or acquired using MMG Program funds will be sufficient to allow long-term provision of service in light of reasonably anticipated costs. The required documentation includes organizational historical financials, audited financials, pro-forma financial projections and analysis to substantiate the sustainability of the proposed project, and submission of a letter of credit valued at no less than 25 percent of the requested award amount.)
2. The eligible entity commits to offering non-discriminatory interconnection to terrestrial and wireless last mile broadband providers and any other party making a bona fide request.
3. The eligible entity identifies specific terrestrial and wireless last mile broadband providers that have (i) expressed written interest in interconnecting with middle mile infrastructure planned to be deployed by the eligible entity; and (ii) demonstrated sustainable business plans or adequate funding sources with respect to such interconnection described in (i).
4. The eligible entity has identified supplemental investments or in-kind support (such as waived franchise or permitting fees) that will accelerate the completion of the planned project.
5. The eligible entity has demonstrated that the middle mile infrastructure will benefit national security interests of the United States and the Department of Defense.
Each applicant seeking an award to build middle mile infrastructure using fiber-optic technology
shall certify that the proposed project, upon completion, will include direct interconnection
facilities that will facilitate the provision of broadband service, at speeds not less than 1 Gigabit
per second for downloads and 1 Gigabit per second for uploads to anchor institutions located
within 1,000 feet of the middle mile infrastructure.
(A) a State, political subdivision of a State, Tribal government, technology company, electric utility, utility cooperative, public utility district, telecommunications company, telecommunications cooperative, nonprofit foundation, nonprofit corporation, nonprofit institution, nonprofit association, regional planning council, Native entity, or economic development authority; or (B) a partnership of two (2) or more
entities described in (A).
Applicants must also meet the qualifications expanded on under Section III(B) of the NOFO, including:
- Financial Capability
- Managerial Capability
- Technical Capability
- Compliance With Laws
- Operational Capability