Tennessee Commits $200 Million to Connect Rural Tennessee

Posted: February 16, 2021

State ECD Officials Discuss Broadband Expansion on “Lead Tennessee Radio”

State leaders from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development appeared as recent guests on the podcast “Lead Tennessee Radio,” which is produced by the Tennessee Broadband Association.

State Broadband Director Crystal Ivey and Assistant Commissioner of Community and Rural Development Sammie Arnold spoke with TNBA Executive Director Levoy Knowles about Gov. Bill Lee’s $200 million pledge to expand rural broadband.

Gov. Lee recently announced the available funds at his Feb. 8 State of the State address. The funds will be administered through the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Grant.

“We should be able to make significant progress, and we hope to finish building our broadband to virtually all parts of the state by the time the governor leaves office,” Arnold said.

Since 2018, the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act, which Ivey oversees, has provided $45 million in broadband funding. Another $15 million will be awarded this spring.

Ivey credited broadband providers with the successes so far in expanding broadband into remote areas.

“The providers really stepped up to be a solution in rural communities. “It is a lot of work, and they are the ones with boots on the ground out there doing the work and connecting these unserved households,” she said. “They are the ones that helped make this happen.”

The ECD officials said providing broadband to rural areas has always been a priority, but the ongoing pandemic elevated the need.

“Rural children are at a disadvantage compared to their friends in town or in a wealthier ZIP code,” Arnold said. “That’s not the kind of state any of us want to live in.”

The “Lead Tennessee Radio” podcast is an opportunity to discuss issues facing Tennessee with state leaders and lawmakers. Past episodes feature House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville; Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge; House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland; Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin; and many more.

“The cooperative and independent telecommunications companies who comprise the TNBA are working hard to ensure that everyone in rural Tennessee has access to this life-changing technology,” said Knowles. “This podcast is a great opportunity to have conversations with state and industry leaders who are on the front lines working for a connected Tennessee.”

“Lead Tennessee Radio” can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play, as well as on the Tennessee Broadband Association website.

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