TNBA members receive $9 million for broadband expansion

USDA ReConnect grants to provide broadband for thousands in rural Tennessee

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded USDA ReConnect grants to four Tennessee Broadband Association members at an event last month. The grants will help fund broadband construction projects in rural Tennessee.

“Access to high-speed internet is vital for improvements in economic development, health care, education and so much more,” said TNBA Executive Director Levoy Knowles. “These grant announcements are great news for our members and will go a long way to helping them provide this life-changing technology for the people and regions they serve.”

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, who traveled to Middle Tennessee for the announcement, said the USDA has invested a total of $9 million for infrastructure projects for Ben Lomand Connect in McMinnville, North Central Telephone Cooperative in Lafayette, Peoples Telephone Company in Erin, and United Communications in Chapel Hill.

“Our core mission at USDA is to increase rural prosperity through boosting economic opportunity in rural America,” Perdue says. “We know that rural communities need robust, modern infrastructure to thrive, and that includes having access to broadband e-connectivity. We know when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”

representatives of recipients of the USDA grant

The grants will create or improve rural e-connectivity for 3,744 rural households, 31 businesses, 41 farms and a critical community facility in Tennessee. This is one of many funding announcements in the first round of USDA’s ReConnect Pilot Program investments.

The $2.2 million grant for Ben Lomand will help create a fiber-to-the-premises network to rural northeastern Cumberland County. The funded service areas include 222 households, six businesses and three farms spread over 100 square miles.

North Central Telephone Cooperative will use a $1.4 million ReConnect Program grant to provide broadband service to residents and businesses in rural Smith County. The funded service areas include 164 households, 10 presubscribed businesses and 21 presubscribed farms spread over 22 square miles.

Peoples Telephone Company will use a $1 million ReConnect Program loan and a $1 million ReConnect Program grant to provide broadband service to residents and businesses in rural Houston, Henry, Stewart and Montgomery counties. The funded service areas include 642 households, two presubscribed businesses and five presubscribed farms spread over 38 square miles.

United Communications will use a $3.3 million ReConnect Program grant to provide broadband service to residents and businesses in rural Wilson, Rutherford, Williamson and Maury counties. The funded service areas include 2,716 households, 13 presubscribed businesses, 12 presubscribed farms and a critical community facility spread over 48 square miles.

The application window for the second round of ReConnect funding is now open, and applications are being accepted until March 31. To date, the USDA has invested $621,135,838 in high-speed broadband infrastructure, which will create or improve rural e-connectivity for rural customers across 31 states.