TNBA Member Expands Broadband Access in Unserved Areas of Middle Tennessee

Posted: January 5, 2021

DTC Communications Awarded Federal Grant to Expand in Smith, Wilson, and Trousdale Counties

DTC Communications (DeKalb Telephone Cooperative, Inc.) is using federal grant funding to expand fiber-optic broadband into areas of Middle Tennessee that currently do not have access to reliable internet service.

The Alexandria-based telecommunications cooperative received about $3.2 million to expand fiber broadband into parts of Smith, Wilson, and Trousdale counties. About $2.2 million comes from a U.S. Department of Agriculture ReConnect grant, and the remainder comes from a Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development grant, which was made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Funding from these grants will cover about 75% of the total project cost. DTC will cover the rest.

The grants will deploy about 127 miles of new fiber in areas that currently do not have broadband access. The new networks will serve about 670 homes and businesses in this area. State Senator Ferrell Haile, whose District 18 includes a portion of this project area, praised the USDA, the state ECD, and the leadership of DTC Communications for bringing broadband to these rural communities.

“The pandemic has taught us that, if you’re confined to home trying to stay safe, you must have broadband access for education and business,” Haile said. “Without broadband, you’re isolated from so many opportunities. This fiber project will bring critical connectivity to the people in these counties who need it to function in today’s world, and I appreciate the team effort of everyone involved to make this project happen.”

Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, who represents a portion of the project area in House District 40, agrees.

“Broadband is a vital, must-have utility, just like water and electricity,” she said. “I am thrilled at the progress being made to connect rural Tennessee homes and businesses to strong broadband infrastructure. We will stay the course until everyone in our state is connected.” State Senator Mark Pody’s District 17 includes a portion of the project area. “We’re committed to solving the rural broadband challenge in Tennessee,” he said. “Our residents need broadband, our businesses need broadband, our schools and doctors’ offices and government agencies need broadband. The health crisis we’ve experienced for the past several months has highlighted that need. You’ll continue to see the legislature supporting the efforts of companies like DTC as they build fiber networks into our rural communities.”

Tennessee Broadband Association Executive Director Levoy Knowles praised members like DTC for working to bring this technology to people in rural parts of the state.

“Access to broadband means more opportunities in education, health care, economic development and so much more,” Knowles said. “There are many places in Tennessee where these opportunities don’t exist because they don’t have access to reliable internet, but our members believe everyone deserves access to this life-changing technology.”

The grants allow DTC up to two years to complete the projects, but DTC CEO Chris Townson said they hope to have the project completed by the end of 2021.

“These residents do not have access to fast, reliable internet, but under our board of directors’ leadership, DTC employees are working hard to change that,” he said. “Fiber broadband is the fastest, most advanced internet available, and we are bringing it to unserved and underserved portions of Tennessee.”

State Representative Clark Boyd, whose District 46 represents part of the fiber project area in Wilson County, says for businesses and residents in this area, having access to fast, reliable fiber broadband is a necessity.

“As we see more and more people working from home, whether it be because of COVID-19 or a choice their company has made, or students who need internet access for homework, broadband is paramount to their ability to do that,” he said. “I am very proud to see DTC get this money. They have proven to be great partners and are serious about delivering broadband to the underserved and rural areas in Tennessee.”

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto agrees.

“It’s exciting to know that broadband will be available in 2021 to the more remote portions of Wilson and surrounding counties. This year has certainly taught us that communication is critical now more than ever. This will benefit not only those unserved portions of our county but also those who need to communicate with them, frequently, like our teachers and health care providers,” he said. “I’d like to thank the Tennessee Broadband Association and DTC for their hard work in advocating for fiber broadband in areas that need it most in Wilson County. We appreciate all you do.”

Smith County Mayor Jeff Mason says the project will help connect areas in the county that haven’t had access to fiber broadband before.

“As we’ve seen the world change in the last 10 months, we’ve also seen the need for fiber broadband become that much more of an important need, especially in our rural communities,” he said. “Chris and his crew at DTC have been great to work with, and they’ve gone above and beyond to search out these grants and get service to these areas.”

In Trousdale County, residents and businesses will also be greatly impacted by the project.

“It’s going to provide internet service to those people who previously didn’t have an option,” said Stephen Chambers, mayor of Trousdale County. “I’d like to thank DTC for extending service to that area in Trousdale County and thank the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and USDA for putting the grant forward.”

Studies show that access to broadband is one of the key factors businesses consider when deciding whether to locate in a specific area. It is also proven to increase property values by as much as $5,400.

The Tennessee Broadband Association is made up of independent and cooperatively owned telecommunications companies like DTC Communications that connect almost 30% of the state to broadband and related services. Together, TNBA members have invested more than $240 million in recent years to connect rural Tennessee to fiber broadband networks.

For more information about TNBA, visit the Tennessee Broadband Association website. To learn more about DTC Communications, visit the DTC Communications website.