Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative FAQ

Q: Why is California building a statewide open-access middle-mile network?

A: The COVID-19 pandemic amplified the importance of internet connectivity to receive healthcare, go to work and attend school. Yet some Californians don’t have fast enough internet service to manage daily life, and some have no connection at all. An open-access middle-mile network prioritizing unserved and underserved communities will give service providers the infrastructure to connect homes, businesses, and community institutions. Governor Gavin Newsom signed historic legislation in July 2021, investing $6 billion for state broadband infrastructure for middle-mile and last-mile projects.

Q: What is the middle mile?

A: The middle mile is the physical mid-section of the infrastructure required to enable internet connectivity for homes, businesses, and community institutions. The middle mile is made up of high-capacity fiber lines that carry large amounts of data at high speeds over long distances between local networks and global internet networks.

Q: What is the last mile?

A: Last-mile connection: The final leg of a network that provides service to the home, business or community institution.

Q: What does open-access mean?

A: An open-access network gives public and private providers or entities wholesale access to broadband infrastructure with fair, reasonable and equal terms. This means any network type is able to interconnect, regardless of technology used, on equal economic and service terms

Q: What does unserved or underserved mean?

A: Internet connection must be strong and reliable enough to handle the typical requirements of modern life, for example a parent’s Zoom meeting occurring during remote school hours. Some regions of California are unserved and have no internet connection. Others are underserved, and have inadequate internet connection with download speeds less than 25 Mbps and upload speeds less than 3 Mbps. The Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative prioritizes unserved and underserved communities.

Q: What is the goal of the Open Access Middle-Mile Network?

A: There are three guiding principles that define the goals of the open-access middle-mile network:

1. Provide affordable, open-access, middle-mile broadband infrastructure to enable last-mile network connectivity throughout the state.
2. Build the network expeditiously, leveraging existing infrastructure, networks, and construction projects, where feasible.
3. Prioritize connectivity to unserved and underserved communities, including community institutions.

Q: How do you make sure the middle-mile will result in usable internet connections in people’s homes, businesses and communities?

A: Preliminary middle-mile locations were identified to connect unserved communities. A range of programs and initiatives, including billions in last-mile funding being implemented by the CPUC, will provide that unserved households in these communities are connected to the middle-mile network. More information about last-mile programs and implementation is available here:

And a Fact Sheet on last mile funding in the 2021 Budget is available here:

Q: How can the public and communities have their input considered?

A: We encourage all members of the public and communities to provide public comment. The CPUC is taking public comment on middle- mile locations via the CPUC public comment portal. Learn more about the Broadband Middle-Mile Infrastructure Proceeding.

The public and community representatives may also provide comment on agenda items at monthly Middle-Mile Advisory Committee meetings or via the MMAC’s public comment form at Middle-Mile Public Comment | CDT (ca.gov).

Q: How is the middle mile being funded?

A: Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 156 into law in July 2021, which is part of the strategy to allocate $6 billion over three years for state middle-mile broadband infrastructure and last-mile projects that provide internet connections to homes, businesses and community institutions. The funding for this effort is divided into the following:

• $3.25 billion to acquire, build, maintain, and operate a critical statewide open-access middle-mile fiber network.
• $2 billion to complement the middle-mile investment to build last-mile infrastructure in coordination with federal and state universal service programs, such as those to connect schools, disabled users, and low-income households.
• $750 million Loan Loss Reserve Fund to assist local governments, tribes, and non-profits in securing enhanced private financing to construct and operate new public fiber networks.

Q: What is the timeline for this work?

A: Per Control Section 11.96 of the 2021 Budget Act, federal funds for these purposes must be encumbered by June 2024 unless extended by the Director of Finance. Per guidance issued by the U.S. Treasury, all funds must be encumbered by December 2024, and projects must be completed by December 2026.