We Can Work Together to Expand Broadband

TNBA’s Levoy Knowles shares partnership message with local government leaders at annual Grants Conference

Sign: Roane State Community College. Welcome Grants Conference!
Roane State Community College hosted the conference.

Knowles encouraged community leaders to reach out to their local Tennessee Broadband Association member and explore how they could work together. “Our members are cooperative and independent providers who have decades of experience bringing technology to Tennesseans,” said Knowles. “Together, they have invested millions of dollars in fiber networks, with plans to invest another $400 million between now and 2022. We’re the rural broadband experts, and we would love to help bring greater connectivity to cities and counties across the state.”Officials with city and county governments, along with other local leaders, gathered at Roane State Community College in Rockwood Sept. 18 to learn about various grants available for community development. Levoy Knowles, executive director of the Tennessee Broadband Association, moderated a panel to discuss opportunities to expand broadband access.

The annual Grants Conference is hosted by Tennessee Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston. “The goal of this conference is to never let a grant opportunity pass by without local governments, community groups and nonprofits knowing how to tap into it,” Yager said in a news release.

Representatives of the Tennessee Broadband Association participating in Sen. Ken Yager’s Grants Conference were, left to right: Mark Patterson, CEO of HTC; Charlie Boring, CEO of BTC Fiber; Sen. Yager; Lisa Cope, CEO of Ben Lomand Connect; and Levoy Knowles, executive director of the TNBA.

Joining Knowles on the broadband panel were Crystal Ivey, broadband director for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, and Chris Collins, general field representative with USDA Rural Development.

Ivey spoke about the state’s Broadband Accessibility Grant, while Collins discussed programs available through the federal government. Knowles stressed that many of these grant programs are only available to USDA borrowers and that members of the Tennessee Broadband Association are eager to partner with other groups to extend broadband into new areas.

Speakers on the broadband panel were, left to right: Levoy Knowles, executive director of the Tennessee Broadband Association; Crystal Ivey, broadband director for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development; and Chris Collins, general field representative with USDA Rural Development.

“I gave a number of examples of partnerships that are working in our state,” Knowles reported after the meeting, “such as Twin Lakes and Volunteer Energy Cooperative, and Ben Lomand Connect and Duck River EMC.”

Knowles also shared an example that illustrated to conference attendees the types of creative partnerships that are possible between broadband providers and local governments. “In Martin and Dresden, the cities were looking for ways to reduce meter reading costs on their water system,” Knowles explained. “WK&T Telecommunications Cooperative partnered with these cities to build a fiber network to monitor their water systems. This also created a network that WK&T can use to provide broadband over fiber to the homes and businesses in those municipalities. Everyone wins.”

This is in keeping with Sen. Yager’s goals for his conference. “Broadband is critical to commerce and the quality of life of every Tennessean,” he stated in a news release. “It is also essential for our current and future education and economic initiatives. We want to make sure that we are maximizing our potential and that we receive grants to widen broadband connectivity.”