Western US fiber and VoIP operator 360Networks has made its own pitch for stimulus dollars. 360 hopes to use the funds for 'middle mile' projects in 17 markets with a 10 mile surrounding radius along a 1011 mile stretch of fiber between Chicago and New Orleans. It's a fairly unique north-south route, one which could certainly use some more competition. They have been working with last mile providers over the last six months to put together viable packages.
I can't help but note that this fiber is not yet shown on 360's network map, i.e. it isn't and probably never has been lit. They are therefore hoping to use the stimulus funds to jump start the financial viability of lighting that fiber and expanding their network. After all, there must be many underserved rural communities along its other fiber routes in the northwest. Their choice to apply for stimulus funding is clearly calculated to align with their own expansion plans, which of course is not a bad thing.
With just a little creativity we can find ways to spend that $7.4B without catering to the concerns of Qwest, Verizon, or AT&T. Or at least we can if the government approves projects like these, this is of course just the bid stage. Middle mile projects don't tend to come with the same network neutrality concerns as last mile projects, which is perhaps why we are seeing a fair amount of bidding activity already.
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