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CDT Highlights Progress on Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative

Thousands of miles worth of middle-mile broadband network infrastructure are on track — and even ahead of schedule — the California Department of Technology reports.

A bundle of fiber optic cables glowing different shades of blue. Black background.
The state’s massive undertaking to build out the infrastructure needed to support high-speed broadband service is on solid footing, according to the California Department of Technology’s (CDT) most recent update on the statewide project.

The Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative (MMBI), as the name implies, is focused on building the broadband foundation that last-mile Internet service providers will use to pipe high-speed service into homes.

Funding for the project comes from $6 billion allocated through Senate Bill 156 in 2021. Of that money, $3.25 billion was allocated for acquisition, construction, and maintenance of the network; $2 billion was allocated to “complement the middle-mile investment to build last-mile infrastructure in coordination with federal and state universal service programs”; and $750 million was allocated to a Loan Loss Reserve Fund to assist with local public fiber network costs.

Nearly $3 billion in funding, so far, has been earmarked or allocated for the construction of 2,664 miles of network infrastructure expected to be completed by the end of this year. In addition, the agency is reporting that just under 4,000 miles has been leased or purchased, putting the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) on track to complete 2,664 miles of network by the end of 2024.

“To date, more than 65 percent of the Middle-Mile Broadband Network has reached the critical milestones of pre-construction, construction, purchase, and/or lease — nearly 15 months ahead of schedule,” CDT said in a press release.

In its March report to the Legislature, the department reported that proactive efforts in 2023 put aspects of the project more than a year ahead of schedule and on track to meet the December 2026 completion deadline.

“In 2023, CDT secured contracts to construct, joint-build, lease, and purchase approximately 83 percent of the Middle-Mile Broadband Network — reaching that milestone 14 months ahead of schedule,” state CIO Liana Bailey-Crimmins wrote.

In its update to the Legislature, CDT laid out its targets for the next 18 months. They include:

  • Construction on all joint build and lease/purchased segments by January 2025
  • For Caltrans to begin construction on approximately 4,000 miles of fiber infrastructure
  • For Caltrans to begin construction on 450 miles of fiber infrastructure by June 2024
  • Begin quality verification on 1,589 miles on multiple joint build and leased/purchased spans
  • Execute a federal permitting completion strategy, ensuring the process is completed in time to meet the December 2026 timeline
  • Install 160 repeater nodes at strategic locations
  • Complete market-sounding study
  • Complete business model, including cost and revenue modeling
  • Continue local and tribal consultations to address access and connectivity needs   

A 14-mile stretch between San Francisco and San Bruno was completed in March, according to a project update issued in late April. Progress is underway on a 10-mile stretch of the network in Mendocino County, and a nearly 30-mile segment between Fremont and Oakland is around 40 percent complete.
Eyragon is the Managing Editor for Industry Insider — California. He previously served as the Daily News Editor for Government Technology. He lives in Sacramento, Calif.