Entries in NTIA (16)


From Appalachian Stereotypes to Broadband Connectivity

Transforming a Region: Horizon Telcom Partners to Connect Appalachia

In nearly every study conducted on broadband penetration rates, one region of the U.S. is consistently listed as behind the times—Appalachia. Still, despite its debilitating stereotypes and rambling topography, some areas of the region are quietly growing with industry, education, scientific research, and health care. But none of these sectors can thrive without broadband availability, a fact that inspired Ohio Congressman Zach Space to advocate for widespread connectivity in the region. Space collaborated with other smaller broadband advocacy groups in the area and, after several years, Connecting Appalachia finally found public and private sector support to make it a reality. Construction of the middle-mile project began this spring, thanks to combined funding from the NTIA and Chillicothe, Ohio-based Horizon Telcom. Many other organizations, businesses, academic institutions, and healthcare providers joined the effort, and as Brooke Eiselstein, public relations specialist for Horizon, describes it, Connecting Appalachia is “a testimony to partnership.”

The project is also a testimony to perseverance. Originally, Eiselstein said, Horizon Telcom worked with Congressman Space and a group of consultants to obtain an NTIA Broadband Technology Opportunity Program grant that would be a last-mile network. “We wanted every person in Southeast Ohio to receive broadband,” Eiselstein said. “Our grant was denied. They didn't find it practical to fund a broadband network that would carry aerial fiber several miles out to the middle of nowhere when only three houses could get it, and who's to say they [these residences] would even sign with us?”

Eiselstein said they re-grouped and “wrote the grant a second time, although this time we were asking for money to build the network to only the middle mile consortium. This entailed hanging fiber on existing utility poles all down major highways to hit large businesses, K-12s, colleges, hospitals, health care entities, government agencies, MARCS [multi-agency radio communication system] towers, and industrial parks.” The NTIA then agreed to fund 70% of the $100m middle-mile project, and Horizon stepped in to pick up the remaining 30%. The group was formally awarded the grant on August 18, 2010, and they will have exactly three years to have the 10MB synchronous connection network up and running.

But the process of securing funding was just one aspect of Connecting Appalachia's evolution. In many ways, the project is a mosaic of smaller, local efforts, starting with three hospitals that came together and decided they needed a broadband network for health care in southeastern Ohio. “Adena, O’bleness, and Holzer [the hospitals] joined together to form the Southern Ohio Health Care Network, and received a grant for $18 million from the FCC,” Eiselstein said. “Later, Horizon was awarded the contract to construct the network.” News of their efforts spread, and soon, Eiselstein said, local districts came together with Congressman Space to “develop a vision for what would become Connecting Appalachia.”

Eiselstein said that the project enjoyed a lot of press in local, regional, and even national press, and as a result their list of partners is quite extensive: the three lead healthcare providers; educational partners across the state; several state government agencies and the Appalachian Regional Commission; federal groups including the FCC, USDA, NTIA, and BTOP; local development districts; and Connecting Appalachia's consultants, Reid Consulting Group.

Such a wide variety of early partnerships paved the way for a larger broadband backbone, while also ensuring a customer base. Eiselstein said, “While we were writing the grant we had to identify 592 Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs). However, many of those customers needed services 'now' (then) and have already signed with other providers. Some have signed monthly contracts so they can switch providers after the network is built.” 

Before the BTOP grant was awarded, Eiselstein said, “We were awarded the Southern Ohio Healthcare Network grant. This allowed us to connect all rural hospitals in 13 counties. Most of these have already been connected. Now, the BTOP grant allows us to connect another 21 counties, totaling 34.”

When asked about cost and Horizon's concerns for return-on-investment, Eiselstein said “absolutely” the group will bring in new customers, adding, “We have to keep in mind that the grant was awarded because Appalachian Ohio has been left behind in regards to technology. This area has suffered because of the lack of broadband, and this was a great opportunity for Horizon to continue its 116-year tradition of providing good service to its neighbors. Horizon cares about putting Appalachian Ohio on equal footing with other areas of the state.” In order to elevate the area's residents and provide more advanced opportunities, Eiselstein said, “It truly is essential that a fiber optic network be built that would provide world-class, high speed Internet. Customers will finally be able to be on the same playing field as colleagues in more urban areas. New customers will be able to purchase internet connections, point-to-point connections, PRIs, and VOIP lines. We are also offering a business video package in many of the counties.”

As an investment opportunity for Horizon, Eiselstein underscored that the network “has the potential to reach 11m customers with up to 10GB synchronous connection. Of course we will not be reaching this many customers, but that is the potential it has.” She added that it was actually a strength for Horizon to be a small company, making it more “nimble and flexible when it comes to creating a solution-based service specific to our customers’ needs.”

Eiselstein has been an ambassador for Connecting Appalachia, tasked with “going to all the counties, joining the chambers, meeting the business owners, elected officials, mayors, commissioners, chamber executives, and so on. We go to trade shows, luncheons, and banquets. We usually have a table where we can distribute our annual reports, brochures, and giveaways that explain the project and who we are. Our response has been very positive. Everyone agrees there is not nearly enough broadband in the region.”

While the project itself will only affect the Appalachian regions of Ohio, Eiselstein notes that the broadband gap expands to other areas of Appalachia as well. “People in this region have been starving for Internet for years,” Eiselstein said. “When people see our trucks on the side of the roads hanging fiber, they immediately call into the office, or even stop to talk to the technicians about availability. The people of Appalachia are extremely excited and relieved to finally have access to Internet speeds and bandwidths that allow them to run their businesses and their lives more efficiently.”

As for the project's current phase, Eiselstein said the group has begun to construct the network's backbone, and are primarily hanging fiber on existing pole routes. A very small portion will be buried. Connecting Appalachia will be providing some last-mile connectivity to businesses. “These last mile costs are typically built into the quote for the business either in an up-front cost or amortized over the life of the contract,” according to Eiselstein. “We are also providing the last mile connection to the community anchor institutions who sign contracts for services. We are also partnering with WISPs to reach residential customers” since the BTOP grant did not fund the last-mile piece of the project.


The National Broadband Map: "Far from Perfect"

Study Depicts Data Limitations of Map, Implications on Policy… Like USF Reform, Perhaps?

Mentioning the National Broadband Map (NBM) is likely to bring up negative reactions in certain telecom circles, but few have gone beyond complaining to actually identifying the map’s specific data limitations and making recommendations for improving the map in future updates. Tony H. Grubesic from Drexel University’s College of Information Science and Technology gave a fascinating presentation at the September 23-25, 2011 Telecom Policy Research Conference in Arlington VA about the inaccuracies of the map; and his paper, “The U.S. National Broadband Map: Data Limitations and Implications,” was released last week.

Since attending the conference, I have been looking forward to reading Grubesic’s paper…and thinking about how some of the inaccuracies he identified will impact rural providers in the USF Order.  Grubesic’s paper does not argue that the NBM is a complete failure; rather he believes that it is a good start and a definite improvement over previous methods of disseminating broadband data (like the Form 477 database). However, “there are a number of issues associated with data integrity, spatial uncertainty and accuracy within the NBM that need to be addressed.”

It is concerning that the FCC plans to use NBM data for Connect America Fund-related decisions, and that the FCC has not really acknowledged that the map depicts an incomplete and overestimated visualization of broadband deployment—it is not out of line to anticipate that this could create problems down the road. Grubesic explains, “Although Steven Rosenberg, the chief data officer with the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau touts the NBM as the ‘largest and most detailed map of broadband ever created,’ it is far from perfect.”

Grubesic’s paper covers several interesting—and alarming—aspects of the NBM. His analysis primarily looks at wireline broadband service for Columbus, Ohio and nearby suburb Dublin. First, he discusses the strengths and weaknesses of using Census blocks. He evaluates the differences in the map’s data between large (greater than 2 square miles) and small (less than 2 square miles) Census blocks. Data was collected differently for large and small blocks, although the map makes no specific differentiation between them. As a result, “One outstanding problem…is whether or not the reported presence of a broadband provider in a block is truly indicative of service availability.”

For large Census blocks, “providers collected and submitted address data or road segment data where broadband service was available.” With this methodology, “providers can be overly generous in reporting their broadband coverage, resulting in a drastic overestimation of broadband availability and provider choice for many regions.” Grubesic provides an example of xDSL service, which is distance-limited to about 18,000 feet or less and is rarely deployed to 100 percent of a wirecenter. The following map illustrates a Census block, highlighted in red, which lies outside of any “best case” xDSL service range. However, “the NBM reports 18 address points or street segments within this block receive asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) service from AT&T of Ohio.” Is it magic, or a case of overestimated service? Grubesic concludes that in the Columbus metro area, “empirical analysis suggests that 8,829 people reported to have xDSL service in large blocks likely do not—representing a 46% overestimate.”

For comparison, here is what the NMB shows for xDSL coverage in the Columbus, OH metro area, and wired broadband coverage for Dublin, OH. Unfortunately the blue xDSL blob overshadows the geographic indicators. The map itself is not particularly easy to navigate or even look at, but as Grubesic has pointed out, it is far from perfect!

The next issue discussed in this paper may be more relatable to RLECs- empty census blocks being reported as served, even if there is no logical reason to have a wired broadband connection to the middle of a lake or an interstate on/off ramp. I have definitely picked up on overestimated wireless coverage in remote areas where I know that barely any wireless service exists (or people, for that matter), but apparently this is not just a wireless problem. Just for fun, here is what the map says about a location in rural Iowa, 8 miles from a major highway and 6 miles from the nearest town: Verizon Wireless, 3-6 Mbps. I’ve been at this location, and I can barely make a call without wandering around the yard searching for a signal.  

Grubesic explains why completely empty blocks—with no residential population or businesses—are occasionally listed as served: “a provider may claim to serve a Census block with 0 population because they can provide service within 7 to 10 days.” Even though the reporting methodology allegedly has ways to prevent this problem, the map itself makes no differentiation between empty and populated Census blocks, or between actually served and "could be served in 7 to 10 days" Census blocks. Grubesic again refers to Dublin, OH, where “nearly 46% of the completely empty blocks are reported as having broadband availability…In other words, the NBM is reporting that 45 Census blocks which are completely devoid of residential population, businesses or shopping have broadband services available.” If you apply this logic to the entire US, the map may be reporting thousands of empty blocks with broadband—those are some lucky lakes, cows and highway intersections!

What is really interesting is that despite a clear overestimation of broadband service reported on the NBM, provider participation in the mapping process varied greatly from state to state—in Virginia, only 27% of providers participated and 14 states had participation rates under 60%. It makes me wonder how overestimated the map would be if a 100% participation rate was achieved! Furthermore, the map uses 2000 Census information, and in 2000 there were 8,262,363 Census blocks. Well, in 2010 there were 11,155,486 Census blocks—a 35% increase. Grubesic recommends that the map should be updated to reflect 2010 Census information, and “if the NTIA and FCC are truly committed to maintaining a current and realistic snapshot of broadband availability in the United States, the use of data from 2000 hinders these efforts.”

What do these data inaccuracies mean for rural broadband policy, specifically the Connect America Fund? If the FCC plans to rely on data from the map to help determine who does (and who does not) receive funding, there are sure to be problems. If the map is not updated and corrected, the FCC will essentially be using a faulty premise to make significant funding decisions. It is indeed a scary thought.

What flaws have you discovered in the NBM? How do you think the map can be improved so that the FCC can utilize the data to make informed decisions?

Grubesic’s paper is available to read here.


Bad News BTOP: $80.6 Million Broadband Grant Revoked in Louisiana 

Project to Connect Schools and Impoverished Rural Areas Derailed by Delays, Strategic Changes

Over the last six months or so, a situation unfolded in Louisiana that culminated last week with the termination of an $80.6m BTOP broadband stimulus grant. In the aftermath, Governor Bobby Jindal’s (R-LA) administration is catching much of the blame, but a deeper look at this saga shows that the project has struggled to meet its deadlines and goals since the grant was awarded in 2010.

First, some background information: The Louisiana Broadband Alliance (LBA) project, led by the State of Louisiana Board of Regents was a collaboration of 6 state agencies (Louisiana Department of Education, Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, Louisiana Educational Television Authority, Louisiana Geographic Information Center, and Louisiana State University Agricultural Center’s Delta Rural Development Center). The LBA project was awarded a federal grant for $80.6m to construct over 900 miles of fiber to provide service to a 3,488 square mile area that included “12 impoverished parishes targeted by the state’s Louisiana Delta Initiative” (according to the NTIA’s profile of the project).  The project would provide 10 Mbps – 1 Gbps broadband service to libraries, hospitals, schools and anchor institutions in underserved rural areas to “promote education, research, and healthcare delivery in some of Louisiana’s neediest areas.” The open network would include 38 points of interconnection and serve several Native American communities.

On October 26, 2011, the Louisiana Broadband Alliance project was terminated by the NTIA – this was the largest BTOP grant termination to date.

What possibly went so terribly wrong? Well, for starters, the project suffered ongoing delays and several significant changes in direction and oversight. According to StimulatingBroadband.com, “the Louisiana termination resulted from delays in the environmental engineering phase of the project, and from the absence ‘of a strong deployment plan in place’ a full year after the funding award of March 2010.” Furthermore, the “pattern of schedule delays, uncertainties and contingencies demonstrate a lack of management ability and control by Louisiana to get this project built on schedule and on budget.”

Basically, the project was suffering from delays and a fuzzy vision from early in the process.  Then, earlier this year, the state assumed control over the project and proceeded to propose significant changes.  This was where the real trouble started. Instead of building the fiber network from scratch, as was a key ingredient in the original proposal (and possibly why the grant was so substantial), the state changed course and proposed to “purchase indefeasible rights-of-use (IRUs) from local providers,” according to an October 27 press release by Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA). StimulatingBroadband.com explained, “Under the stimulus package legislation, the rules of NTIA for BTOP, funds are to be expended for the capital construction of large networks and the telecom equipment to operate them. Funds may not be expended under the program for operating costs, like those included in carrier line rental” (emphasis added).  

StimulatingBroadband.com wrote that Governor Jindal’s Administration essentially “attempted to convert grant funded state owned last mile fiber connections slated for scores of community anchor institutions (CAIs) to investor-owned carrier circuits to be installed by existing broadband providers.” I can’t help but wonder—didn’t the Administration know that this proposal was a violation of the terms of the grant? Apparently the Administration figured that purchasing IRUs would help overcome delays, so maybe their head was in the right place… But wouldn’t it be difficult to justify keeping $80.6m for the purpose of constructing a fiber network when they weren’t actually going to construct a fiber network?

The letter explaining the termination from NOAA Grants Management Division Director Arlene Simpson Porter illustrates that the project team had received plenty of warnings and opportunities to “take corrective action” going back to early 2011. NTIA conducted a site visit in March 2011 and determined that the project was already 9 months behind schedule; and at a follow-up site visit in July, “NTIA staff learned of additional impediments threatening the implementation of the project.”

At that time, Louisiana proposed its course-correction plan of purchasing IRUs instead of constructing the network. NTIA gave the state several more opportunities to explain the new strategy, but NTIA found that the response “did not provide sufficient detail, such as a comprehensive implementation schedule or an adequate business plan.” Louisiana had a final chance to get its affairs in order in October, but NTIA again found that the response was inadequate and insufficient.

Reactions to the news about the grant termination have largely placed the blame on the Jindal Administration. StimulatingBroadband.com spoke with Assistant U.S. Commerce Secretary Lawrence E. Strickling, who reportedly said that NTIA “did all it could to save the large broadband stimulus network project in Louisiana.” Strickling also explained that “NTIA is vigorously overseeing broadband grant projects to ensure they are completed on time, on budget, and deliver the promised benefits to the communities they serve.” A press release by Senator Landrieu expressed frustration with the Jindal Administration: “Despite receiving the green light for more than $80 million in federal funds, the State fumbled the ball;” and “This is yet another missed opportunity to improve the lives of Louisiana residents, particularly rural Louisianans who are often left out of such initiatives.”

What will be the impact of this decision? Surely, the anchor institutions and unserved communities in rural Louisiana who were expecting to be connected to the LBA fiber backbone will suffer as a result of the grant termination, but will private companies step in and build fiber to these unserved locations? Apparently, the funds will be returned to the U.S. Treasury, so there won’t be any opportunity for other worthy organizations to utilize the funds for a similar objective.

What lessons can be learned from this unfortunate situation, particularly for the RLECs who have received federal broadband grants? Clearly, it is probably not a good idea to fall significantly behind schedule, and an even worse idea to drastically change the deployment strategy in order to overcompensate for delays. While processing this story, I kept thinking of the political quotation, “Don’t change horses in midstream.” It also appears, from my perspective anyway, as though the management team made a number of “Project Management 101” faux pas, and possibly fell victim to an unclear strategic direction, especially when the decision was made to abandon plans to construct the fiber network organically.

Unfortunately, delays cannot always be avoided or overcome (especially in a project of this scale and scope), and in at least one case a BTOP-funded project has been halted because the funding from the government has actually been delayed (The ILEC Advisor: More Rural Broadband Loans Announced as Past Recipients Wait on Funds)…So, what do you think – did the NTIA make the right decision to revoke the grant, or should the state have been given more time to course-correct?


Broadband Stimulus Program Ends

RUS Announces Last Four Award Recipients

Round two of the Broadband Stimulus program ended quietly on September 30, 2010.  The Rural Utilities Service (RUS) announced four additional awards totaling approximately $18.3m in grant and loan funding.  All told, RUS has leveraged $2.5b in Recovery Act funding to provide loans and grants of $3.6b, and the National Technology and Information Administration (NTIA) has awarded more than $3.9b in grant and loan funding. 

Throughout the awards process we have noted that projects utilizing fiber—for both middle and last mile networks—were receiving the lion’s share of the funding.  In the end, of all the middle and last mile projects funded under the Broadband Stimulus program, more than 62% were fiber-based, 12% were wireless-based, and 17% were a combination of fiber and wireless.  Projects deploying DSL technology made up a little more than 5% of middle and last mile awards. 

Some industry experts point to the heavy favoritism shown towards fiber projects as an example of a major flaw in the stimulus program.  These critics argue the program was lacking in innovation and creativity.  And while wireless can be much more cost effective to deploy over large swaths of sparsely populated rural areas, there have been few successful large-scale wireless broadband deployments.  Fiber, on the other hand, has been used reliably in many networks.  As a result, wireless projects tended to be viewed as riskier than their fiber counterparts. 

Another complaint raised by some analysts was that the application requirements heavily favored incumbent communications providers.  For instance, applicants were required to submit historical financial statements and cash balances, which was a particular problem for non-profit organizations, startups and some public-private partnerships. And for those applicants that were able to provide the required paperwork, the economics of the projects didn’t always look good, especially when compared to applicants with larger balance sheets (many of which also have long-standing relationships with NTIA and RUS). 

Despite these complaints, the consensus seems to be that NTIA and RUS did an admirable job awarding a large amount of money in a relatively short period of time.

There are, however, some exceptions.  Last month we noted RUS rescinded a $19m grant awarded to TierOne Converged Networks (The ILEC Advisor, 9/10, p.9).  This month brings word local governments in Silicon Valley are calling for federal and state probes into the $50m public safety grant awarded to Motorola, Inc. for The San Francisco Bay Area Wireless Enhanced Broadband Project (BayWEB). The funding, awarded by NTIA, was for the construction of a middle mile wireless network to expand service for emergency responders utilizing 4G LTE technology.  Allegations include public ethics violations and problematic procurement practices.

Not all news on the Broadband Stimulus front is of the acrimonious sort– North Carolina’s governor broke ground on MCNC’s North Carolina Research and Education Network on October 8, 2010.  MCNC, a public-private partnership, won two awards from NTIA totaling nearly $104m in grant funding to build a middle mile fiber network in 37 counties.  And even as RUS administrator Jonathan Adelstein announced the end of the stimulus funding, he pointed to the $1b Farm Bill as a source of additional funding for broadband projects. 

Other Broadband Stimulus Developments: Chokio, Minn.-based Federated Telephone Cooperative, which received nearly $4.3m in grant and loan funding from RUS, has selected Calix for its two projects to build fiber-to-the-home systems in Morris and Appleton, Minn…….Bellingham, Minn.-based Farmers Mutual Telephone Company, which received approximately $9.7m in grant and loan funding from RUS for its fiber-to-the-premises project in partnership with Lac qui Parle County, has selected Calix gigabit passive optical network (GPON) services for its fiber deployment……XFONE held a ground breaking ceremony on October 11, 2010 to mark the official beginning of construction of its PRIDE network.  The PRIDE network received nearly $100m in grant and loan funding from RUS to deploy fiber-to-the-premise technology in parts of Texas and Louisiana….Sunbright, Tenn.-based Highland Telephone Cooperative has selected the Calix Unified Access portfolio for its $66.5m Broadband Stimulus project to build a fiber-to-the-home network in parts of Tennessee and Kentucky.


Broadband Stimulus Deadline Approaching

As $7 Billion Program Ends, a Look Back

The last month has brought nearly $1.4b of grant and loan award announcements under President Obama’s Broadband Stimulus program.  The funding is being awarded under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP)- administered by the Commerce Department’s National Technology and Information Administration (NTIA); and the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP)– administered by the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS).  The nearly $7b program, part of the Recovery Act, was reduced from $7.2b over the summer. 

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced the final 14 BTOP awards on September 27, 2010.  All told, NTIA has awarded approximately $4b in funding to 233 projects nationwide.   The majority of BTOP awards are for middle mile networks that expand high-speed Internet availability to communities and connect community anchor institutions. Other types of projects include public computer centers and sustainable broadband adoption initiatives.

According to a September 13, 2010 RUS press release, RUS has leveraged $2.5b in Recovery Act funding “to provide loans and grants of $3.6b to construct 307 broadband infrastructure and satellite projects in 46 states and one territory.”  It is unclear whether or not RUS will make any further award announcements, but all funding must be awarded by September 30, 2010. 

Barring any large last minute awards, California has emerged as the biggest beneficiary of broadband stimulus funding, garnering more than 6.0% of total funding ($448m).  Delaware received the smallest amount of funding of the 50 states, receiving just $5.1m.  On average, each state or U.S. territory received more than $126m; the average award was $13.9m per project. 

Last month, we noted the largest award to date was $126m in first round grant funding awarded to the executive office of the state of West Virginia for construction of a middle mile network utilizing microwave and fiber technology.  That award has since been topped by $154m grant funding awarded to the Los Angeles Interoperable Communications Systems Authority, which will deploy an inter-operative wireless public safety broadband network across Los Angeles County to serve more than 80 public safety agencies and up to 34,000 first responders. 

The Broadband Stimulus Program has not been without controversy– we’ve seen complaints about everything from companies claiming award recipients are gaining unfair competitive advantage in a particular region to awardees complaining the grant/loan terms are too onerous.  Windstream Corporation (Nasdaq:WIN) announced recently that it is seeking to amend certain provisions of its existing credit facilities because the “amendment is required to permit the signing of rural broadband stimulus grant agreements” with RUS.  WIN has received 16 awards totaling $168m in grant funding to deploy ADSL2+ technology, not including the $17m awarded to recently acquired Iowa Telecommunications

And on September 7, 2010, Connected Planet reported RUS has rescinded a $19m grant awarded to TierOne Converged Networks.  According to the website, RUS used a “clawback” provision provided in the award because the recipient is currently being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for alleged federal securities violations. 

It seems in some instances recipients have withdrawn their requests for funding after receiving awards.  There is little information available disclosing the reasons behind such withdrawals.  For example, round one recipient Allegiance Communications, which was awarded $29m grant funding to deploy more than 680 miles of fiber optic network, makes no mention of the award on its website. Further, although an April 16, 2010 press release from NTIA describes the grant, the applications database no longer lists the project under “awarded.”  As best we can determine, Allegiance Communications withdrew its request sometime after being notified it had been awarded funding. 

With the September 30, 2010 deadline upon us, we expect the focus to shift from applications and award announcements to grant/loan term negotiations, and, eventually, progress updates on the projects themselves. 

Other Broadband Stimulus Developments: Occam Networks announced it has been selected to provide access network equipment to the Marquette-Adams Telephone Cooperative.  The company was awarded $13.8m grant and $6.2m loan funding to extend fiber optic service from the existing service area to unserved rural areas bordering the telephone company’s current territory……CommScope, Inc. reported it has been selected by BTOP round one award winner MCNC—which received $28m grant funding to build a 494 mile fiber optic middle mile network—to provide all materials related to the project……Infinera announced its partnership with United States Unified Community Anchor Network (U.S. UCAN) on September 7, 2010.  U.S. UCAN received $62.5m grant funding to build a national scale middle mile network to connect all community anchor projects funded by BTOP with each other.