Impressive Match for Middle Mile Projects Not a Likely Harbinger for BEAD Awards

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2023 – The nearly doubling of the $930 million in federal funds announced for Middle Mile awards last week is not likely to be repeated in the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program, said experts at a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event Wednesday. 

In addition to the federal funds awarded, entities brought forth $848 million in other funding. That’s the equivalent of 47 percent of the total project cost, or a more than 91 percent “match” of the federal project funds.

Photo of Joshua Broder of Tilson

The awards, which make up nearly all of the $1 billion available for the projects under the bipartisan infrastructure law, support 35 projects across 35 states. The money will invest in middle mile builds, the network that connects to last mile infrastructure.  

Middle mile awards were evaluated on a scored system. Applicants could improve their score by increasing the matching dollars they would provide in the project. 

The match amount for awarded projects was high because of the competitiveness of the program, said Joshua Broder, CEO of telecom company Tilson. Experts estimate that the ideal investment in middle mile would be close to $7 billion, a $6 billion deficit, he cited.  

Furthermore, many middle mile projects needed little subsidy to make the investment profitable for providers, said Broder. 

Instead, BEAD program investments are last mile networks in unserved or underserved areas which increases cost for build out, making them less economically feasible for providers and thus limiting the amount of match funds available to the projects, he continued. 

Although the BEAD program requires a 25 percent match, it will be difficult for providers to achieve, added Mark Goldstein, president at the international research center. 

Executive Vice President of government affairs at telecom nonprofit Connected Nation, Brent Legg, expressed his agreement claiming that the requirement to achieve 100 percent connection will limit BEAD matching funds further.  

Awarded middle mile projects are expected to deploy more than 12,000 miles of new fiber that will pass within 1,000 feet of nearly 7,000 community anchor institutions. Grants span from $2.7 million to $88.8 million and additional grants will be announced on a rolling basis.  

State broadband entities are the announcement of their funding allotments for the BEAD program from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The Commerce Department agency has set a deadline for the announcements by June 30.  

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast, or REGISTER HERE to join the conversation.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023 – Middle Mile Award Announcements

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Middle Mile Program has the potential to play a key role in narrowing the digital divide, and the long-awaited awards are set to be announced by the end of June. With applications for the $1 billion program amounting to over $5.5 billion in total, what should we expect from the upcoming grants, and what might get left behind?

Panelists

  • Joshua Broder, CEO, Tilson
  • Mark Goldstein, President, International Research Center
  • Mike Ellison, Vice President, Public Sector, FiberLight
  • Brent Legg, Executive Vice President, Government Affairs, Connected Nation
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Joshua Broder serves as CEO of Tilson, a national leader in telecom consulting, design, and build services, which under his leadership, has grown from less than 10 employees to 1200, earning a top spot on the Inc. 5000 list for the past twelve years. He is also the founder of Tilson Infrastructure, which develops, owns, and leases back digital infrastructure including poles, towers, and long-haul fiber to carriers nationwide.

Mark Goldstein chairs the Arizona Telecom & Information Council and is president of the International Research Center, providing consulting, custom research and strategic support for business, legal and public policy clients across a variety of high-tech disciplines and arenas since 1992. Much of IRC’s work has been in broadband, wireless communications, IT, and IoT/smart everything. Mark recently led grant development teams for three NTIA Middle Mile Grant applicants in Alaska, Iowa and Pennsylvania.

Mike Ellison brings over 20 years of telecommunications experience to his current role as vice president, public sector at FiberLight. He is responsible for the overall management and performance of his team, who are engaged with state and local leaders across Texas, Maryland, Florida, Georgia and Virginia and helps FiberLight customers design, engineer, build and optimize their fiber optic networks so that each community is able to witness the greatest possible return. Ellison’s belief in customer engagement is one rooted in developing a thankful culture that helps each customer exceed their expectations and provide superior offerings to their residents.

Brent Legg has worked at the intersection of technology, politics and public policy for more than 20 years, and currently serves as executive vice president at national nonprofit Connected Nation. In that role, he is leading the organization’s joint venture to establish carrier-neutral Internet Exchange Points in unserved markets across the United States. These IXP facilities, which will primarily be located on public university campuses, will improve the broadband ecosystem across entire regions by reducing latency, improving access to cloud and content networks, and fostering a marketplace for transport and transit competition that will drive down costs.

Drew Clark (moderator) is CEO of Breakfast Media LLC. He has led the Broadband Breakfast community since 2008. An early proponent of better broadband, better lives, he initially founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for broadband data. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over the leading media company advocating for higher-capacity internet everywhere through topical, timely and intelligent coverage. Clark also served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative.

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