$930M in grants announced in effort for nationwide internet access expansion

According to the Associated Press, the federal effort to expand internet access to every home in the U.S. took a major step forward today with the announcement of $930 million in grants to shore up connections in remote parts of Alaska, rural Texas, and dozens of other places where significant gaps in connectivity persist.

The so-called middle mile grants, announced by the Department of Commerce, are meant to create large-scale networks that will enable retail broadband providers to link subscribers to the internet.

The grants were 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 of new fiber through 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 through a remote section of the state where an estimated 55% of people lack access to basic internet.

The grants were set in motion by the $65 billion allocated by Congress for broadband as part of the $1 trillion infrastructure measure President Joe Biden signed into law in 2021.

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