C Spire secures $26.2M NTIA middle mile grant

Aug. 22, 2023
The competitive provider will leverage funds to build a new middle-mile fiber network serving unserved and underserved counties in Alabama.

C Spire has won a $26.2 million Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Middle Mile grant program award intending to sell wholesale services to areas of the state lacking broadband connectivity.

NTIA’s award will be part of a $52.6 million fiber construction project from C Spire’s existing network in Birmingham across the southern area of the state, including regions of Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bullock, Chambers, Chilton, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Coosa, Covington, Dallas, Elmore, Escambia, Greene, Hale, Henry, Houston, Lee, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Shelby, Tallapoosa, Washington and Wilcox Counties.

This grant will complement C Spire’s $500 million investment in fiber infrastructure and network enhancements in Alabama to provide broadband internet access for consumers and other advanced voice and data services to businesses.

C Spire’s “Connect Alabama” project will encompass 677 new fiber route miles. The route will offer redundancy, high reliability, and high-speed broadband throughout 26 unserved/underserved Alabama counties. It traverses and enables open access to last-mile providers, electrical cooperatives, military facilities and tribal areas along its path. Additionally, the network proposes to support wholesale and retail broadband services throughout the project's life.

“We are thrilled to secure this grant to continue expanding service to the residents of Alabama,” said Hu Meena, president and CEO of C Spire. “This reinforces our long-standing commitment to Alabama, and expansion of our services across the state, bringing ultra-fast fiber to rural communities, encouraging private sector broadband investment and leveraging existing resources to residents and businesses.”

Multiple drivers

There are two drivers behind C Spire’s middle mile initiative.

The provider’s fiber enhancements in Alabama are part of a three-year initiative, announced in 2021 to invest $1 billion across Alabama and Mississippi – the most significant capital spending project in the company’s history--to accelerate fiber deployment across both states. C Spire has also completed a 243-mile-long haul fiber initiative from Meridian, Miss., to Homewood, Ala., bringing service to an underserved rural part of the state.

What’s also fueling the company’s expansion in Alabama was the acquisition of Troy Cable, which has secured eight state grants and a federal grant (Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs and federal Rural Digital Opportunity Fund) to deploy fiber across the state, especially in rural areas. All these projects have been delivered on time or ahead of schedule and are greater than expectations.

Rep. Barry Moore congratulated C Spire and encouraged local municipalities to promptly approve rights of way and permits.

“I know they are committed to expanding access in Alabama and look forward to working with them and regulatory agencies to help secure the necessary permits needed to expand connectivity in the state expeditiously. I hope permitting agencies will move quickly to get this integral utility deployed promptly,” said Rep. Barry Moore.

Middle mile momentum

Momentum around providers building new fiber-based middle mile networks continues to grow.

The Middle Mile grant program, part of President Biden’s “Internet for All” initiative, provides $1 billion in funding to projects that connect high-speed Internet networks and reduce the cost of bringing Internet service to communities that lack it.

In June, NTIA announced $930 million to expand middle-mile high-speed Internet infrastructure across 35 states and Puerto Rico. The projects will deploy over 12,000 miles of new fiber that will pass within 1,000 feet of 6,961 community anchor institutions.

In October 2022, preliminary data showed that over 235 applications were submitted, totaling more than $5.5 billion in funding requests for the Enabling Middle Mile Infrastructure Grant Program.

"Middle mile infrastructure is the connective tissue that links the networks that serve homes and businesses,” said Alan Davidson, assistant secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information at that time. “The volume of applications we received demonstrates the high demand for increasing middle mile capacity throughout the country.”

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About the Author

Sean Buckley

Sean is responsible for establishing and executing the editorial strategies of Lightwave and Broadband Technology Report across their websites, email newsletters, events, and other information products.

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