Tennessee Awarded $61 Million to Benefit Those Impacted by COVID-19

Posted: August 28, 2020

TNBA Members Continue Building Fiber Broadband for Rural Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee Broadband Association (TNBA) members continue building on their long history of providing rural residents with cutting-edge technology that enhances their lives.

Governor Bill Lee awarded more than $61 million in grants from the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund to various broadband providers in the state including $19 million to TNBA members that will allow them to continue building fiber optic broadband in underserved areas.

The Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund utilizes a portion of the state of Tennessee’s federal aid, known as the Coronavirus Relief Fund, to enhance broadband infrastructure and access to individuals and families affected during the COVID-19 pandemic by the lack of broadband access in their area.

TNBA grant recipients include:

  • Advantage Cellular Systems (DTC Communications): $1.876 million
  • Ardmore Telephone Company: $815,640
  • Ben Lomand Telephone Cooperative: four grants totaling $2.447 million
  • Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative: $1.974 million
  • Loretto Telephone Company: $1.104 million
  • Peoples Telephone Company: $1.106 million
  • SkyBest Communications: $224,255
  • Twin Lakes Telephone Cooperative: $1.551 million
  • United Telephone Company: three grants totaling $5.245 million
  • West Kentucky and Tennessee Telecommunications Cooperative: two grants totaling $2.668 million

The grants will provide students with broadband speeds that will allow users to access the tools they need to thrive in online classes, employees to work remotely, all customers to use telemedicine, and more.

TNBA Executive Director Levoy Knowles says the grant announcement is fantastic news for both association members and those they serve.

“During this COVID-19 pandemic, we have so many students participating in online classes or forced to complete class assignments from home, yet many don’t have access to reliable internet service,” he says. “These grants help our members efficiently provide the resources and broadband speeds they need.”

Knowles points to a recent study from Michigan State University that indicates students who do not have access to reliable, high-speed internet perform lower on a range of metrics, including digital skills, homework completion and grade point average. They are also less likely to attend a college or university and generally score lower on standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT.

“We can’t let our children fall behind,” Knowles says. “We owe it to our children to provide them with the tools they need to be successful.”

Governor Lee says the grants will directly benefit Tennesseans.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has only further elevated the importance of access to reliable, affordable broadband internet to facilitate telemedicine, distance learning and telecommuting,” he says.

According to federal guidelines, these grant projects are limited to those that enhance access to broadband for individuals and families affected during the COVID-19 pandemic by the lack of access in their area. Eligible entities included those authorized to provide broadband services in Tennessee, and eligible areas were limited to those unserved or underserved locations lacking all equipment necessary to provide a broadband connection capable of supporting telemedicine, distance learning and telecommuting.

Visit the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to learn more about the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund.