For Immediate Release
ComEd Media Relations
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Funding to leverage existing ComEd infrastructure to help increase access to high-speed broadband for 440,000 unserved or underserved households in Chicago
CHICAGO (June 20, 2023) – ComEd today announced that it was awarded a $14.5 million Middle Mile Grant by the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) that will enhance electric grid reliability and resiliency while also helping to increase broadband connectivity in communities on the south and west sides of Chicago that lack equitable access to affordable broadband.
The funding was made available by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), a once-in-a-generation $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure funding opportunity focused on building resilient infrastructure, accelerating an equitable, clean energy transition and creating good-paying jobs in communities. The NTIA made approximately $1 billion available nationwide to reduce the cost of connecting unserved and underserved areas by building out middle mile broadband infrastructure; the Middle Mile Grant application specifically called out investor-owned utilities as one of several entities eligible to apply for this funding.
"Advanced communications networks are essential to achieving higher levels of reliability and resiliency of the electric grid, especially as we connect more distributed energy resources like solar and battery storage to the power grid," said Michelle Blaise, ComEd's senior vice president of technical services. "Like other utilities across the country that are stepping up to the challenge, we are proud to have partnered with community stakeholders to secure federal funding that will leverage our necessary investments in advanced communications networks to create the additional benefit of improving access to high-speed broadband on the west and south sides of Chicago."
The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the inequities of broadband access, with many of ComEd's customers shut out from economic opportunities and access to remote services, including telehealth and remote schooling. At the start of the pandemic, according to Kids First Chicago, one in five children under the age of 18 in the City of Chicago lacked access to broadband; despite considerable progress in closing this divide for households with children, as of 2021, nearly 200,000 Chicago households still lack access to broadband.
"In an increasingly interconnected world, bridging the digital divide isn't just a matter of equality; it's a fundamental necessity for progress and empowerment, ensuring that no one is left behind in the pursuit of knowledge, opportunity, and social inclusion," said Daniel Anello, chief executive officer of Kids First Chicago.
For several decades, ComEd has operated and invested in fiber optic infrastructure as part of an advanced communications network that facilitates the automation of the power grid in a way that makes the grid more reliable and secure. This makes the company well positioned to support closing of the digital divide.
ComEd already has plans to deploy more than 400 miles of fiber optic cable in Chicago over the next five years as part of its advanced communication network required to meet the needs of the evolving grid such as the decarbonization of our communities envisioned by the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA). The Middle Mile Grant will leverage ComEd's planned infrastructure investment to affordably bring new middle-mile infrastructure into 24 communities in need, representing 440,000 households in communities like North Lawndale, Englewood, Woodlawn and South Shore. By offering last-mile service providers affordable access to dark fiber capacity along ComEd's middle mile network, the costs for third-party internet service providers to deploy broadband services in areas of need would be significantly reduced.
ComEd's sister utility BGE was also awarded an NTIA Middle Mile Grant. The portfolio of IIJA grant-funded projects—awarded and applied for—across ComEd, its five sister utilities, and its parent company, Exelon, will help the companies continue their leadership in the energy transition by delivering clean, reliable and affordable energy to all customers, committing to economywide decarbonization, and engaging and investing in the communities they serve. Proposed projects include a community innovation hub, battery-backed community microgrids, deployment of smart meters, and improvements in grid resilience in under-resourced communities. More information about the Middle Mile Grant Program is available at ntia.gov.
ComEd is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation (NASDAQ: EXC), a Fortune 250 energy company with approximately 10 million electricity and natural gas customers – the largest number of customers in the U.S. ComEd powers the lives of more than 4 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state's population. For more information visit ComEd.com and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.