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October 5, 2022
The NTIA confirmed that it received over $5.5 billion in applications for the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure grant program. That's more than five times the amount allocated for the $1 billion fund through the Biden administration's infrastructure law.
Grant applications were due on September 30, with the exception of entities serving parts of the country hit by extreme weather, including Puerto Rico, and parts of Florida, South Carolina and Alaska. Those service providers have until November 1, 2022, to submit applications.
In a press release, NTIA's chief administrator Alan Davidson called the middle mile program a "force multiplier" for connectivity. "The volume of applications we received demonstrates the high demand for increasing middle mile capacity throughout the country," he said.
Figure 2: Alan Davidson at NTIA oversight hearing on June 9, 2022.
(Source: Screenshot via Senate Commerce Committee)
During a Senate hearing earlier this year, Davidson rightly predicted that the middle mile program would be "wildly oversubscribed."
NTIA said in its press release it would review applications and begin awarding grants on a rolling basis "no earlier" than March 2023. Unlike the $42.45 billion Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, middle mile funds do not need to be distributed based on the forthcoming FCC map and thus can go out sooner.
In addition to reviewing grant applications, the NTIA is also in the process of reviewing comments due earlier this week on its proposal to waive "Buy America" rules on middle mile grant recipients that would have required these buildouts to use US-made supplies. NTIA caved to a request for waivers on middle mile grants following pressure from service providers and an internal industry analysis showing a lack of available materials to satisfy middle mile buildout timelines.
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