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Bridging the Digital Divide: Zayo’s Plan to Connect Communities Using the NTIA Middle Mile Grant


At a time when connectivity is the lifeline for education, healthcare, and public safety, Zayo is taking decisive steps to close the digital divide and bring robust connectivity to underserved communities. In the past five years, we have built and operated over 4,000 long-haul route miles across 17 states – and that’s just the beginning.

On June 16, we were awarded $92.9 million as part of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Middle Mile Grant Program. NTIA received more than 260 applications, collectively requesting $7.47 billion from the $1 billion available and Zayo is the only national provider to receive this funding. The funding will be used to build critical middle-mile connections, providing broadband connectivity for those in need. Without extensive middle-mile network enhancements, it becomes difficult and costly to establish reliable networks in underserved and unserved communities. 

This opportunity promises to transform remote education, telemedicine, and public safety communication, ensuring that all communities have affordable access to high-speed Internet. This funding, coupled with our expertise and unwavering commitment to communities, will allow us to build what’s next: a connected future where access to reliable connectivity is a fundamental right for all. 

Based on current broadband speeds, rurality, and socio-economic indicators, our focus is to execute three critical middle-mile infrastructure projects impacting eight states and 42 cities:

Oregon – California – Nevada: Serving the Underserved

Zayo plans to build a high-capacity fiber route to address the pressing need for reliable bandwidth in underserved Oregon, California, and Nevada communities. More than 420 new route miles will profoundly benefit underserved households, businesses, and community anchor institutions. The project will support network infrastructure needs in the following locations: 

  • Oregon: Fort Rock, La Pine, Lakeview, Lone, Mayville, Mitchell, Paisley, Prineville, and Umatilla
  • California: Alturas, Spanish Springs, and Herlong
  • Nevada: Panther Valley and Reno 

Why these locations?

  • 8.1%-19.7% of the population in these areas fall under the federal poverty rate.
  • 10 school districts have a greater than 60% level of participation in the national school lunch program.
  • All but one of these areas have access to broadband at a median speed at or less than 25 megabits per second (Mbps) down/5 Mbps up. 
  • Over 20,000 households in Oregon and California will benefit from Zayo’s middle-mile fiber network.

Zayo’s route would also provide access to LinkOregon, a non-profit middle-mile provider focused on serving Oregon’s K-12 institutions, higher education, libraries, Tribes, remote state offices, and other public and non-profit organizations and facilities across Oregon. In addition, there are two major healthcare institutions in Eastern Oregon that will benefit from access to our network.

El Paso to Dallas: Revolutionizing Rural Connectivity

Through this project, Zayo plans to construct a high-capacity, middle-mile fiber route spanning 644 route miles to establish broadband in some of the most rural areas in Western Texas, stretching from Dallas to El Paso. No similar fiber network can serve the totality of such rural communities between Dallas and El Paso, Texas. 

The project will support network infrastructure in the following cities and towns in Texas:

  • Albany, Andrews, Brad, Dallas, Dell City, Gail, Horizon City, Kermit, North Roby, Orla, and Wright 

Why these locations?

  • 18 of the 20 counties that Zayo’s route will serve have median broadband access at or less than 100 Mbps down/25 Mbps up. 
  • 16 of the counties passed in this project have federal poverty rates between 10.5% and 24.2% percent. 
  • 17 school districts have a greater than 60% level of participation in the national school lunch program.

Dallas to Atlanta: Improving Access and Expanding Opportunities

This project aims to create new network connectivity exit ramps along Zayo’s unique, five-state route between Dallas, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia, spanning 822 route miles, to better service unserved and underserved areas. This project is also tailored to improve access to community anchor institutions. 

Communities served will now have access to a reliable and resilient fiber network. This critical infrastructure will expand remote learning, telemedicine, and public safety communications opportunities. 

Our middle mile network is designed to include exit ramps to: 

  • Texas: Dallas, Hawkins, Marshall, Shreveport, and Willis Point
  • Louisiana: Minden, Rayville, Ruston, and Tallulah
  • Mississippi: Meridian, Clinton, and Forest 
  • Alabama: Eutaw, Leeds, Oxford, Vance, and Villa Rica
  • Georgia: Atlanta

Why these locations?

  • In all of these counties, the median broadband access speed is at or less than 100 Mbps down/25 Mbps up. 
  • All but four of these counties have between 10% and 33% federal poverty rates. 
  • There are over 30 school districts for which 60% or more students participate in the national school lunch program. 
  • 36 schools are within 1,000 feet of the fiber routes.

Zayo’s Commitment to Closing the Digital Divide

Zayo is deeply committed to supporting opportunities for connectivity for all. Our 107,000 U.S. route miles provide critical connectivity in rural and metro areas across 48 states. We have significant regional knowledge, having built and operated similar major networks throughout the State of Texas and the United States. Through the acquisition of Education Networks of America (ENA) in 2021, Zayo is also now the largest independent provider of K-12 E-rate services in the nation, connecting almost 20,000 schools. We will continue to expand its network and services to support the growing needs of underserved communities to close the digital divide.

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If you’re a local government, ISP, or institution with a community broadband need, please submit the form below. We look forward to connecting with you!