window opens for billion-dollar Middle Mile grant program | Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
As stated in the NOFO, “Mid-mile infrastructure does not reach the end-user location, but typically aggregates large amounts of traffic for transport between networks.” The NOFO states that Middle Mile infrastructure “(A) means any broadband infrastructure that does not connect directly to an end-user location, including an anchor institution; and (B) includes— (i) leased dark fiber, interoffice transport, backhaul, carrier-neutral Internet exchange facilities, carrier-neutral submarine cable landing stations, carrier services, submarine cables, transport connectivity to data centers, special access transport and other similar services; and (ii) wired or private wireless broadband infrastructure, including microwave capacity, access to radio towers, and other services or infrastructure for a private wireless broadband network, such as towers, fiber and microwave links.
We have reviewed the documents released by the NTIA as part of the opening of the Middle Mile funding window and have several initial recommendations for potential applicants:
- Plan early: Since funding will come directly from the Federal Government, Middle Mile applicants will be required to register with the Federal Scholarship Management System (SAM.gov) prior to submitting an application. The registration process is time-consuming and requires the submission of detailed company and bank information. In our experience, this process can take up to three weeks.
- Carefully review additional information requirements: In addition to demonstrating the need for the project, applicants must also submit additional information, including: (i) an irrevocable stand-by letter of credit; (ii) audited financial statements; (iii) historical audited financial statements; and (iv) sufficient information to demonstrate that the project will provide services to underserved and unserved areas.
- Public policy objectives: Applicants will also be required to provide information demonstrating that the proposal meets the objectives of the program, including descriptions of the applicant’s efforts (i) to coordinate with local government and community organizations, including disclosure of any financial contributions or contributions. planned equipment and letters of support; (ii) the commitment to offer non-discriminatory interconnection to last mile providers; and (iii) the intention to increase the redundancy and resilience of telecommunications networks and protect other critical national infrastructure, such as the national power grid and border security.
- Build America, buy America: All applicants to the Middle Mile program must certify that their proposals comply with the Build America, Buy America Act, which requires that all iron, steel, manufactured goods and building materials be produced in the United States, unless a waiver is requested. The Secretary of Commerce may grant waivers of this requirement if an applicant can demonstrate that compliance with the Build America, Buy America Act: (1) would be inconsistent with the public interest; (2) is not possible because the types of iron, steel, manufactured goods, or materials of construction are not produced in the United States in sufficient and reasonably available quantities or of satisfactory quality; or (3) increase the overall project cost by more than 25%.
Now that the filing window is open, applicants should begin their review of the required information as soon as possible. Although filing before the September 30 deadline confers no benefit, an early review of the application and filing procedures is advised.