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Tech Department’s Broadband Contracts Secure Materials to Build Network

The California Department of Technology has awarded contracts to two vendors that are expected to enable the state to have materials at the ready when work commences on 3,000 miles of broadband infrastructure, to provide statewide high-speed Internet.

Broadband cables.
Two new contracts are moving California closer to its goal of delivering affordable high-speed Internet statewide.

The California Department of Technology (CDT) has awarded two contracts to vendors that total nearly a quarter of a billion dollars — and will enable the state to provide the materials needed to construct 3,000 miles of broadband infrastructure.

The contracts combined amount to nearly $225 million and will let California “fulfill material orders on an as-needed basis for the next four years,” Amy Norris, CDT deputy director of communications, told Industry Insider California. CDT awarded Graybar Electric Company a contract valued at slightly more than $111 million, to provide conduits, vaults and construction hardware. CDT awarded Anixter a contract valued at slightly more than $113.5 million, to provide optical fiber. These contracts, Norris said, only cover the availability of materials, noting the state will do a separate procurement for logistics services. In a statement, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said providing broadband is vital to the state’s success.

“Access to high-speed Internet can mean the difference between launching a successful career and being without work,” Newsom said. “Once constructed, this network will be the largest in the world — and our action today will make the promise of broadband for all a reality.”

Issues with the supply chain and broadband projects nationwide, the governor’s office said in a news release Friday, have generated competition for the materials the state needs. The state’s Invitation for Bid was a “proactive step,” it said, to ensure the needed supplies would be ready at a pre-negotiated price. Government Operations Agency Secretary Amy Tong called this a “critical first step” toward ensuring the state has those supplies. “This fiber will be the backbone of the middle-mile network, which will bring access to unserved and underserved Californians so they can participate equally in digital society,” Tong said in a statement.

CDT’s awards are part of the state’s Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative, and the first step in developing a network that will deliver high-speed Internet to underserved areas regardless of their technology — and on “equal economic and service terms,” per the news release. The term “middle-mile network” refers to the lines of high-capacity fiber that can carry large quantities of data longer distances at faster speeds among local networks; it’s the actual physical infrastructure needed to bridge local and global networks and is a vital part of California’s Broadband for All initiative. The awards, the governor’s office added, are part of a “comprehensive and long-term approach to tackling the broadband infrastructure deficiencies” that impact rural and low-income communities.

CDT Acting Director Russ Nichols, who is chair of the Middle Mile Advisory Committee, said the projects will begin soon, indicating in a statement officials will continue working with the California Department of Transportation to begin fiber installation “as soon as possible.” The build-out of the middle-mile network is anticipated to be done by December 2026.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.