Zayo won big as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) awarded $930 million for fiber projects covering 35 states and Puerto Rico as part of its Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program. But while that might seem like a lot, the agency noted the program was massively oversubscribed, with applications seeking a total of more than seven times that amount.

Passed as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the middle mile grant program provides $1 billion to fuel the construction, improvement or acquisition of middle mile infrastructure. On a call with press, NTIA chief Alan Davidson and White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitchell Landreiu described middle mile infrastructure as a critical connection point between local last mile broadband and the massive transport networks that crisscross the country. The awards announced Friday will fuel the deployment of over 12,000 miles of new fiber in more than 350 counties.

“Not only can these networks reduce the spending required for last mile deployments, but they can improve network resilience in the face of the climate crisis and increasing natural disasters like wild fires, floods and storms by creating multiple routes for the internet traffic to use instead of just one,” Landreiu said.

Asked whether the middle mile projects receiving grants will be completed in time to connect last mile networks funded by the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program, Davidson said he’s hopeful that will be the case. However, he noted that the outer time limit for completion of middle mile award projects is five years.

“We do hope and expect many of them will be completed faster than that. And the hope is – and I think Congress wisely sequenced it this way – having this money out quickly, now will enable us to create infrastructure that those other projects will build on top of,” Davidson said. He added that NTIA tried to incentivize applicants to work faster by giving more points to projects set to be completed in less than two years as part of its scoring process.

Award rundown

All of the awards announced Friday cover fiber-based projects. Grant totals range from $88.9 million on the high end to a low of $2.7 million, with the average award coming in at $26.6 million.

The largest grant went to QSH Parent Holdco, a former holding entity for the company Quintillion, which was recently acquired by Grain Management. The money will fund the so-called Nome to Home Express Route in Alaska, which will extend existing network infrastructure running from Fairbanks to Nome and build fresh fiber running from Emmonak to Naknek, King Salmon, Igiugig and, ultimately, Homer.

California’s Department of Technology took home the second largest award, scoring $73 million to add 680 miles to its statewide middle-mile fiber network. The additions will bring the statewide network within 5 miles of 288,000 unserved addresses and 14 Tribal entities.

And Michigan’s Peninsula Fiber Network, LLC bagged nearly $61.3 million to build 535 route miles of new fiber to connect the Upper Peninsula to the lower with a redundant path. This new infrastructure will enable last mile access for rural communities with more than 35,000 homes needing connectivity.

Zayo was the only big-name provider to score funding, winning $13.7 million to create new access routes along its existing 822-mile middle mile fiber route spanning Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. It also won $55.1 million to build a new 644-mile route in Texas, and $24 million for a 645-mile project serving parts of Oregon, California and Nevada. All told, its awards tallied nearly $93 million.

Other states covered by grants included Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Missouri, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as Puerto Rico.

The NTIA said it will award the remaining Middle Mile funding that’s available on a rolling basis. But there certainly won’t be enough to go around. The agency noted it received more than 260 applications collectively requesting $7.47 billion from the $1 billion funding pot.