Sunday, November 7, 2021

U.S. Infrastructure bill directs $65 billion for broadband and middle mile

The U.S. House of Representative passed and President Biden signed the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, which includes $65 billion to expand high-speed broadband across the country.

The funding will be directed at areas that are unserved or underserved in broadband availability. Grants will also be available for connectivity projects in tribal areas, and for enabling middle mile broadband infrastructure.

"Unserved" is currently defined as locations with speeds of under 25 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads. Upgraded infrastructure must offer a minimum of 100 Mbps downloads and 20 Mbps for uploads. 

"Middle mile infrastructure" is defined as any broadband infrastructure that does not connect directly to the end-user location, including anchor institutions (libraries, schools, etc) and including leased dark fiber, interoffice transport, backhaul, carrier neutral Interntet exchange facilities, carrier neutral submarine cable landing stations, undersea cables, transport connectivity to data centers, special access transport, wired or private wireless broadband infrastructure, microwave capacity, radio tower access, and other services or infrastructure for a private wireless broadband network, such as towers, fiber, and microwave radio links.

The purpose of the middle mile infrastructure grants will be to reduce the cost of connecting unserved and underserved last mile areas to Internet backbones, including providing resilient network paths that avoid single points of failure on a broadband network.

The bill also includes subsidies for those who cannot afford broadband service. The Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment included in this package aims to bridge the digital divide in disadvantaged communities. In addition to all 50 states and Puerto Rico, funding will be available for the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The full text of the Infrastructure Bill is here (search for broadband):

  • Gary Bolton, president and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association"“The Fiber Broadband Association applauds Congress for passing the Bipartisan Infrastructure package and taking the historic and necessary step to invest into our nations’ broadband infrastructure and the people that will be able to leverage it daily. The pandemic illuminated the critical need for ubiquitous and robust broadband availability, affordability, and adoption as it is a foundation for job creation, economic development, remote learning, virtual workforces, and telehealth services. This investment in fiber broadband provides a path for smart grid modernization, Smart City applications and emerging technologies such as such as 5G, IoT, and precision agriculture.  Today’s affirmative vote enables the nation to embrace digital equity for generations to come.  Americans must have access to fiber broadband if they are to participate fully in our society, economy and civic affairs and we appreciate this legislative milestone as the vote to invest $65B in broadband is a vote for the American future.”