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The Last Mile. That phrase sounds sort of ominous and in a world defined by being online, finding out your home has no way at all to connect to the internet can be just that. 

The phrase refers to the area (think of a driveway) that connects your home via cables to the internet service provider’s (ISP) infrastructure at the main road. 

When shopping for a new home, never assume your local ISP is available, particularly at a rural property. The home may have been built after the infrastructure was installed to the neighborhood or previous owners just simply chose not to have internet access.

Whatever the reason, the cost of extending the service from your home to the main road or connection point can be more than most of us can afford.

Eight states are tackling the last-mile connectivity problem in their own ways. 

As explained by Earthlink, “Because ISPs have to invest in the infrastructure to reach individual homes, they get a larger return on their investment in densely populated areas, like cities and suburbs. Areas with geographic barriers (like mountains) or low population density (requiring miles of internet lines for a handful of households) are less likely to be appealing to some internet providers.”

The states are addressing this issue by finding their own funding or using federal broadband dollars to help unserved addresses connect. Grants are given to ISPs to complete the construction with time and cost guidelines.

Pew Research reported how these states deployed and funded line extension programs:

California: The state created the Line Extension Program as a pilot project within the California Advanced Services Fund Broadband Infrastructure Grant Account. Eligible applicants must reside in the location and qualify for the California LifeLine or CARE programs, or  have a household income equivalent to the CARE program’s income guidelines. For example,  the Comcast Corp. Project approved funding up to $2,574.61 for a line extension to bring broadband internet service to a household in Nevada County.

Indiana: The state’s Indiana Connectivity Program, funded by a state broadband grant, “identifies unserved properties near existing broadband infrastructure and provides competitive grants to ISPs to connect these locations. Under the ICP, grant recipients can receive up to $25,000 per line extension and $4,800 per premise. Since its launch, the ICP has awarded $4.4 million to connect 978 properties across the state,” as reported by Pew.

Vermont: No funding is currently available for the state’s Line Extension Customer Assistance Program, but in “2020 and 2021, LECAP provided up to $3,000 in grants to over 800 qualifying and eligible Vermonters (over $1,350,000 total) who wished to extend telecommunications lines to their homes. The program was designed to help pay for buildout of service to Vermonters lacking 25/3 Mbps broadband service,” according to the program’s site. Unserved property owners can sign-up to be alerted when more funding is available.

Maine: Thanks to federal funds used to launch the Reach Me Line Extension program, over 6,300 properties will get internet access in Maine. The program is available at the ISP level, with the state’s team identifying the areas needing extensions. The service must be at least 100/100 Mbps and the ISP must commit at least $700 toward the cost. Connections must be finished by 2025. “The Spring 2023 Reach Me awards will total just over $20 million and leverage an additional $13 million in private investment from ISPs. These line extension incentives will help to fund 10 projects across 74 communities in 14 counties.”

Virginia: Created by federal funding, the state’s Line Extension Customer Assistance program allows individuals and ISPs to apply for last-mile installation help. Breezeline, Comcast and Brightspeed are among the 14 ISPs approved to provide those extensions. Eligible households must earn at or less than $89,066 annually and up to $133,599 in higher-income areas. 

Minnesota: Residences and business locations lacking internet under at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload can apply through a state portal as part of its Broadband Line Extension Connection program.  Area ISPs review the service request and submit a bid to bring service to your location. The winning bidder is then given one year to connect your property to their service of at least 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload. The cost isn’t to exceed $25,000.

West Virginia: The state launched its Line Extension Advancement and Development program with a “different approach than programs in other states by focusing on large-scale projects rather than on connecting individual addresses,” reports Pew. ISPs with existing fiber or cable networks with speeds of at least 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload, with the ability to “extend their infrastructure to properties on the edge of their existing service territories through projects that include 50 or more addresses.” The ISPs must give at least $500 toward each connected property. The program will “support deployment of about 768 miles of fiber to connect 9,337 locations.”

Pennsylvania: The Broadband Infrastructure Program gives priority to projects that will serve entire communities and will “fund extensions of existing last-mile cable modem and fiber-to-the-premise broadband networks, and large-scale regional projects that can transform broadband availability by serving large numbers of eligible addresses.” The minimum grant amount is $500,000 up to the max of $10 million. The providers must foot 25% of the total install price.

What internet service is available at your address?

Before you move, identify and compare internet plans available at your address. It’s important to use your specific address because even if your neighbor has one ISP, it doesn’t mean your home is also serviceable by them. 

If running cables onto your property isn’t feasible or you live in a state without these programs, consider satellite or 5G home internet. Providers like T-Mobile and Verizon offer 5G home internet that works if you are in proximity to one of their towers. If not, satellite providers like Viasat, HughesNet and Starlink often can reach areas that cable and fiber internet cannot.

Check out Allconnect’s News Hub for more updates on the internet industry.

Robin Layton

Written by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

Robin Layton is an editor with Allconnect. She works closely with the content team writers to ensure consumers get a fair and balanced reporting of the state of broadband services to help them understand the pro… Read more

Camryn Smith

Edited by:

Camryn Smith

Associate Writer

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