Middle Mile Broadband Deployment Act Introduced

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Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Angus King (I-ME) introduced the Middle Mile Broadband Deployment Act. This legislation would help build needed broadband infrastructure to connect internet carriers to local networks and community institutions in order to increase broadband access to unserved and underserved communities.

Much of the national debate around broadband access has focused on connecting residences to the internet, called connecting the “last-mile.” There have been fewer conversations on the federal level about “middle-mile,” the section of a network that connects the internet backbone to a local connection site, which often includes anchor institutions such as schools, libraries, or government offices, say the lawmakers. 

Last-mile connectivity depends on solid middle-mile infrastructure to connect a local community to the outside world. These networks can provide savings that incentivize last-mile providers to build in remote areas, according to the bill sponsors.

“By ensuring nondiscriminatory or ‘open-access’ to these networks, internet service providers, including co-ops and rural carriers, can reduce their capital expenditures and pass the savings to their customers,” stated Rosen and King. “These networks also provide for network resiliency, as alternative paths can prevent points of failure, allowing service providers to divert traffic in case of an outage.” 

The Rosen-King bill creates a program within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to award grants for middle-mile infrastructure. States applying for grant funding will be required to design a broadband network program that:

  • Is capable of supporting retail broadband service, either directly or through a last-mile partner for residents and businesses within a proposed service area;
  • Enables the connection of unserved anchor institutions (hospitals, schools, libraries, healthcare provider, institutions of higher education, and other community support organizations), including tribal anchor institutions and;
  • Improves the redundancy and resiliency of existing middle-mile infrastructure.

The Competitive Carriers Association praised the measure. CCA President/CEO Steve Berry stated: “Rural and hard-to-reach areas stand to benefit greatly from access to critical mobile broadband services, and the numerous economic, educational, health, safety, and social benefits that come with this access will help close the digital divide. Providing non-discriminatory access to the middle mile for backhaul to support wireless deployments and 5G is extremely important.”

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