Eighteen projects that are focused primarily on “middle mile” infrastructure received $183 million in initial first-round grants last week under the $7.4 billion broadband stimulus program administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). Announced by Vice President Joe Biden, the grants cover projects that encompass 17 states and that are supported by an additional $46 million in private capital. In all, the NTIA and RUS received more than 2,200 applications seeking $28 billion in funds for the first round. (For the first round, the NTIA and RUS are authorized to spend $4 billion of the $7.4 billion in funds allocated for broadband expansion under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.) The agencies are expected to award an additional $2 billion in first round grants during the next two months. Out of the $183 million awarded last week, $121 million was earmarked for middle mile projects, which Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott described as “an often overlooked piece of the broadband puzzle.” Included among the grant recipients are (1) a public-private partnership involving the ION Company that will receive $39.7 million to connect more than 100 anchor institutions and support connections to 250,000 households and 38,000 businesses in rural upstate New York, (2) a public-private partnership involving the University of Maine, which was granted $25.4 million to build a 1,100 mile broadband network with three fiber rings across rural Maine, and (3) the North Georgia Network Cooperative, which was given $33.5 million to build a 260-mile fiber ring that will serve eight Appalachian counties located in North Carolina and Georgia. Noting that “new broadband access means more capacity and better reliability in rural areas and underserved urban communities around the country,” Biden proclaimed, “this is what the Recovery Act is all about.”