Middle Mile Broadband

Electric Companies Are Critical To Closing the Digital Divide

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed daily routines for millions of Americans across the country. The sudden transformation to working and learning from home not only has reinforced the value of electricity, it also has highlighted the importance of access to affordable, reliable broadband.

This digital divide is keenly visible in the parking lots of community internet hotspots that have become the new classrooms and workspaces for people living in underserved and unserved communities. In addition, rural hospitals, already strained by the effects of the pandemic, are further constrained by the lack of highspeed service needed to provide telehealth appointments and to send and receive data-dense medical files.

The importance of increasing access to broadband and making it universally available can be compared to the electrification of the United States, and policymakers are looking to electric companies to help bridge the gap. In order to provide multiple benefits to customers, electric companies are working with the communities they serve and with broadband providers to forge ahead with creative new partnerships designed to benefit everyone.

Key Points

As regulated service providers, electric companies are well positioned to help close the digital divide.

By leveraging their existing infrastructure, electric companies can provide broadband “middle mile” networks linking major carriers to last mile providers, such as internet service providers (ISPs) and anchor institutions.

Electric companies long have incorporated telecommunications equipment and fiber technology into their operations—particularly in rural areas—to support communications and to provide real-time monitoring and controls for generation and transmission operations.

Allowing electric companies to provide the middle mile broadband infrastructure is a win-win for all stakeholders, particularly the residents of underserved and unserved areas.