Rosen, King Introduce Middle Mile Broadband Deployment Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Angus King (I-ME) announced the introduction of their 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.

“Too many communities in Nevada and across our nation lack adequate internet access,” said Senator Rosen. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation that would take bold steps to close the digital divide by building connections from national internet carriers to local networks. By building these connections, we will expand local broadband access to previously unreached and underserved communities, bringing down the price of internet access for consumers in the process.”

“As our nation and economy becomes increasingly digital, too many Maine people without reliable broadband access are being locked out of the connections to work, school, healthcare, and commerce that many across the nation take for granted,” said Senator King. “As we seek to address this problem, we must use every resource at our disposal to speed broadband deployment and keep costs down. Our legislation to invest in ‘middle mile’ infrastructure would do just that, by increasing competition and the capacity of broadband networks nationwide. This is an important step to make sure that every community across the country has affordable access to the high-speed, reliable broadband connection they need to pursue economic and educational success.”

“EEI and our member electric companies commend Senators Rosen and King for prioritizing middle-mile broadband infrastructure as part of the effort to expand affordable and reliable broadband access for all Americans,” said Tom Kuhn, President of the Edison Electric Institute. “The COVID-19 pandemic clearly highlighted that there still are many unserved and underserved communities across the country, and the Middle Mile Broadband Deployment Act will significantly boost the opportunities for the electric power industry to help close the digital divide. EEI member companies are well-positioned to build out the middle-mile broadband infrastructure needed to help reach these communities, in partnership with the telecommunications companies and last-mile internet providers that ultimately will connect customers.”

“I thank Senators Rosen and King for introducing legislation that will enable middle mile broadband infrastructure,” said Steven K. Berry, President and CEO of the Competitive Carriers Association. “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 middle mile for backhaul to support wireless deployments and 5G is extremely important. I thank the Senators for their leadership on this issue and look forward to continued work with Congress on this very important infrastructure legislation.” 

BACKGROUND: Much of the national debate around broadband access has focused on connecting residences to the internet, what is known as connecting the “last-mile.” There have been fewer conversations on the federal level about “middle-mile.” Middle-mile is the section of a network that connects the backbone of the internet to a local connection site, which often includes anchor institutions such as schools, libraries, or government offices. Middle-mile networks bring data to and from an internet backbone to local networks. Last-mile connections create links between those local networks to the end-users, which includes households and businesses. 

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. 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. 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.  

In addition to the Edison Electric Institute and the Competitive Carriers Association, the Middle Mile Broadband Deployment Act is also endorsed by T-Mobile.

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.