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Constructing the Digital Landscape: Highlights of NTIA’s Middle Mile Program

Generations before us built infrastructure such as electricity, water, and sewer systems to serve everyone in America. Now, it is our generation’s turn to connect everyone in America to the tools they need to thrive in the modern digital economy through reliable, affordable, high-speed Internet service. Achieving this ambitious goal requires the development of middle mile infrastructure.

In 2023, NTIA awarded nearly $980 million to deploy over 12,500 miles of new middle mile fiber through the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure (Middle Mile) Program to 36 organizations across 40 states and territories. This investment will build new and resilient Internet highways that help lower the cost for last-mile providers to deploy future networks and increase end users' access to reliable, affordable, high-speed Internet service.  

NTIA recently announced the first Middle Mile Program grantee in the nation to begin construction. Most of these grant projects are currently under environmental review, and NTIA expects additional grantees to be able to start construction on the first projects in the coming months.

As a highlight of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Infrastructure Week, NTIA held a public webinar featuring three Middle Mile Program recipients that aim to fill the gaps in our nation’s middle mile infrastructure and advance NTIA’s national goals of increasing connectivity, affordability, and equity. These projects highlight the diversity of middle mile infrastructure needs across the country.

Pima County

Pima County Regional Middle Mile Fiber Optic Ring received a $43 million grant to construct a 134-mile contiguous fiber ring around the outer area of greater Tucson and surrounding rural communities.  

This open access network will be constructed over the next five years and will be available at a reasonable price for Iast-mile providers to build connections to unserved or underserved households in the county.  

Michelle Simon, Director, Pima County Office of Digital Inclusion said the goal “[Is] to make sure those living outside of the urban area have the same access to the same infrastructure and connectivity as their neighbors living in the center of Tucson. This project will give people options -- options to work from home, start an online business, take online classes, or talk to their doctor all from the comfort of their home.”


Within the next four years, the Quintillion’s Nome to Homer Express Route in Alaska will extend an existing network by constructing 960 subsea and 105 terrestrial miles of fiber.  

This project has several physical challenges, including the state’s 800-square-mile size, a limited road system, and crossing over natural features such as undisturbed tundra, large lakes and rivers, and sea ice during the winter months.  

The $150 million project will help enable equitable access to critical telehealth services, more educational resources, greater opportunities for business growth and innovation, and increased connection to other parts of the world despite living in remote locations.  

Omaha Tribe of Nebraska

The Omaha Tribe of Nebraska’s $36 million fiber-based middle mile project will construct 384 miles of new fiber, utilize 100 miles of IRU dark fibers, and upgrade 34 miles of existing fiber.  

A key motivation for this project was the COVID-19 pandemic:  

“[Not only] did we not have this essential infrastructure in place of the Internet, [but] we realized how important it is in a modern world,” said Ruben Zendejas, General Manager, Quick Current. “How many aspects of modern life revolve around the need access to Internet services... [This led the Tribe to assert their] digital sovereignty and take a more active role in making sure that their Tribe had this necessary resource of Internet to provide it to their own citizens.”  

The two-year project will traverse unserved, underserved, Tribal, and rural areas in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa and aims to bring more job opportunities and skills training to these communities.

We are excited to see these projects continue to progress as we work to ensure everyone has access to affordable, reliable Internet service.