Project Grant


Grant Description
Purpose: The purpose of this project proposal is to construct a new, 644-mile underground middle mile fiber route that would serve some of the most rural areas in western Texas, stretching from Dallas to El Paso. The presence of this route will facilitate broadband service to several unserved and underserved areas.

The middle-mile network project has been designed to include access points to serve underserved and unserved areas in some of the most rural counties in Texas. The applicant has identified 236 community anchor institutions that will have access to the fiber network and could be directly or indirectly supported.

The applicant is partnering with a tower provider that will construct nine 180-foot-tall towers along the proposed route. Each tower can host up to four wireless internet service providers (ISPs) that can provide both mobile and fixed 5G wireless broadband service. The applicant has been coordinating with multiple ISPs in Texas, who are advocating for the route, so that they can deliver the fiber to homes, small businesses, and institutions.

Throughout the route, and through its local ISP partners and digital equity consultancies, the applicant plans to promote digital equity efforts to enable communities to harness their new broadband capabilities.

Activities to be performed: The project will use fiber to build a new/resilient middle mile network through underserved communities with a commitment to open access and carrier-neutral non-discriminatory interconnect. The period of performance is expected to be three years.

Expected outcomes: The project will be designed with two main deliverables:
1. Construct a new, unique, 644-mile underground middle mile fiber route that would serve some of the most rural areas in western Texas, stretching from Dallas to El Paso.
2. Directly or indirectly support 236 community anchor institutions (including five currently unserved) that will have access to the fiber network.

Intended beneficiaries: The applicant's Dallas to El Paso route has been designed to traverse underserved areas and deliver needed network resilience and world-class connectivity that does not exist today. The proposed route passes through twenty counties between Dallas and El Paso, with over 27,000 blocks unserved with a rural ratio of 36% according to FCC 477 July to December 2021 and US Census Bureau 2020 data.

The communities that will be served by this fiber network are among the most rural and underserved in the state of Texas. There are 15 counties through which the proposed route passes in which the median broadband access speeds are less than 100 Mbps, again according to FCC 477 July to December 2021 data. The availability of a middle mile fiber network proposed in this project will lead to higher quality broadband available in these areas.

The applicant's proposed route under this project will provide middle mile fiber access to 17 counties which have a poverty rate of 11% to 24%, at or below the federal poverty level. Currently, there is no contiguous open access middle mile backbone that is in place to serve ISPs in the community consistently. A local outage could impact the backbone for multiple towns. Current routes for the middle mile in a few places head to Amarillo and Denver, which means routing goes out of the state. The proposed route is contained within the state, allowing for linkage to other TX routes to reroute within the state. Latency will be lower, the reliability with the underground aspect will be higher, and the consistency of a purpose-built middle mile backbone will reduce the outage experience.

This middle mile route will facilitate robust broadband to support remote education, telemedicine, and public safety communications in both fixed and mobile environments.

Subrecipient activities: The applicant has identified Vertical Bridge as a subrecipient. Vertical Bridge will be responsible for the construction of nine 180-foot cellular towers and 75'x75' cellular compounds.
Place of Performance
Boulder, Colorado 80301-1067 United States
Geographic Scope
Single Zip Code
Related Opportunity
Zayo Group was awarded Project Grant 0840MM217 worth $55,132,425 from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in July 2023. The grant has a duration of 3 years 5 months and was awarded through assistance program 11.033 Middle Mile (Broadband) Grant Program. $36,754,950 (40.0%) of this Project Grant was funded by non-federal sources.


Last Modified 6/21/23

Period of Performance
Start Date
End Date
7.0% Complete

Funding Split
Federal Obligation
Non-Federal Obligation
Total Obligated
60.0% Federal Funding
40.0% Non-Federal Funding

Activity Timeline

Additional Detail

SAI Number
Award ID URI
Awardee Classifications
For-Profit Organization (Other Than Small Business)
Awarding Office
Funding Office
Performance District
Michael Bennet
John Hickenlooper
Joe Neguse
Modified: 6/21/23