The National Telecommunications and Information Administration reviewed some details of its Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure program in a webinar on May 26.
Although there is only $1 billion available through these middle mile grants (versus $42.5 billion through the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program), the program is on a fast timeline: Applications are due on September 30, 2022.
Awards will be granted no sooner than March 1, 2023.
Officials from the agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, which is responsible for administering the lion’s share of the federal broadband funds, said that the Middle Mile program is split into three stages of review: Eligibility, Merit and Programmatic.
The Eligibility Review certifies the completeness and responsiveness of individual projects to the minimum requirements of the Middle Mile Program.
Each applicant must provide evidence that they are capable of “carrying out a proposed project in a competent manner” financially, technically and operationally. Each project must be able to support retail broadband service upon completion and each applicant must commit to non-federal cost sharing of no less than 30%.
Furthermore, agency officials said, every applicant must make a commitment to prioritize connecting either unserved areas or non-contiguous trust lands, or offering wholesale broadband service at a reasonable rate. Any applicant must offer interconnection in perpetuity where possible.
Upon being determined eligible, applications will go through a Merit Review where they will be evaluated by at least three objective reviewers on a 100-point scale. The reviewers will evaluate the project purpose and benefits and the projects’ sustainability.
The Programmatic Review will prioritize applications based on the merit review score. All applicants with a score of 80 points or above will be considered. During this phase, the NTIA may ask applicants to submit more information to clarify or substantiate the application.
Applications through the NTIA application portal are due on September 30, 2022. Awards will be granted no sooner than March 1, 2023.
Further information can be found in the Notice Of Funding Opportunity, Middle Mile Grant Program which is part of the agency’s new Internet for All portal.