Skip to main content

The Middle Mile or Middle Child?

The Middle Mile or Middle Child?

Many efforts to connect the unserved and underserved communities in the U.S. states and territories prioritize last-mile builds to connect individual homes and businesses. This leaves the middle mile overlooked, once again.

“Middle mile is like the middle child that keeps getting ignored,” said Sachin Gupta, Director of Government Business & Economic Development at Centranet and Secretary on the FBA Board of Directors. “If we continue ignoring it, at one point in time, we will not be able to connect all of these last new last mile connections that we are planning on building in the next four years.”

Looking at a broadband deployment map of Oklahoma, one can see that there are connections from point A to point B covering the entirety of the state, but they remain separate and don’t connect to each other. The last mile networks, mainly built in rural populations, are all within spitting distance of each other, some just a road away. These last mile builds could be connected to create one larger middle-mile network rather than multiple separate last mile networks, ensuring even more reliable broadband connections.

The lack of middle mile negatively affects the digital divide, which according to Gupta, can be broken down into three kinds – urban/rural, access, and affordability. Lumen Technologies has been looking at the critical uses of fiber broadband in an effort to serve middle mile communities.

According to Jordan Gross, Director of State Government Affairs for Market Development at Lumen Technologies, Lumen has about 400,000 route miles of midde mile across the country. In line with its mission, Lumen launched a digital inclusion initiative that looks at how the company can optimize its networks and assets, allowing the company to close the digital divide further. Gross mentioned that public-private partnerships with federal, state, and local governments could be critical to how middle mile infrastructure can be used more efficiently to deliver fiber broadband.

For more on middle mile and the digital divide, listen to the latest Fiber for Breakfast podcast.