ComEd received a $14.5 million Middle Mile Grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). This grant aims to improve electric grid reliability, enhance broadband connectivity in underserved areas of Chicago, and address the digital divide. The funding comes from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure initiative. The NTIA made approximately $1 billion available nationwide to expand middle mile broadband infrastructure, and investor-owned utilities were eligible to apply for this funding.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the inequalities in broadband access, with many ComEd customers lacking economic opportunities and access to services like telehealth and remote schooling. Around 20% of children in Chicago did not have broadband access at the start of the pandemic, and even in 2021, almost 200,000 households in the city still lack it.
ComEd has been investing in fiber optic infrastructure for decades to automate the power grid and improve its reliability and security. This positions the company well to help bridge the digital divide.
ComEd plans to deploy over 400 miles of fiber optic cable in Chicago over the next five years, aligning with the requirements of the evolving grid and the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA). The Middle Mile Grant will leverage ComEd’s planned investment to bring affordable middle-mile infrastructure to 24 underserved communities, benefiting 440,000 households in areas such as North Lawndale, Englewood, Woodlawn, and South Shore. By offering affordable access to dark fiber capacity, third-party internet service providers can reduce the costs of deploying broadband services in these areas.
ComEd subsidiary BGE also received an NTIA Middle Mile Grant. The IIJA grant-funded projects of ComEd, its sister utilities, and its parent company, Exelon, aim to lead in the energy transition by providing clean, reliable, and affordable energy, promoting decarbonization, and investing in the communities they serve. Proposed projects include a community innovation hub, battery-backed community microgrids, smart meter deployment, and grid resilience improvements in under-resourced communities.