Funds will provide broadband connectivity to unserved rural Tennesseans
Governor Bill Lee and the Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced late last week $14.9 million in broadband accessibility grants to expand service to 17,800 unserved Tennesseans, spanning 7,120 homes and businesses.
Grantees will match funds to complete the projects for a combined investment of $36 million across the state. Infrastructure should be built out within two years of receiving the grant funds.
Each of the grant recipients have demonstrated a high need for grant funding and the ability to implement and sustain fiber projects. Likewise, there is strong community support in these areas for fiber broadband.
Over $9.3 million of the funding was awarded to Tennessee Broadband Association members.
Tennessee Broadband Association (TNBA) Executive Director Levoy Knowles says the news is wonderful for members and the communities they serve throughout Tennessee.
“We are appreciative of Governor Lee and the Department of Economic and Community Development for these grants in rural Tennessee,” Knowles said. “Our members dedicate themselves to serving their customers and bringing fast, reliable broadband to unserved and underserved residents and businesses. These grants will help further their mission.”
The TNBA recipients include:
- Ben Lomand Connect: $179,695.56, serving parts of Coffee County
- Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative (BTC Fiber): $727,955.56, serving parts of Bledsoe County
- Loretto Telecom: $1,700,000, serving parts of Lawrence County
- Peoples Telephone Company (TEC): $2,000,000, serving parts of Benton County
- United Communications: $782,976, serving parts of Bedford and Marshall counties
- Volunteer First Services: $1,924,783.33, serving parts of Cumberland County
- West Kentucky & Tennessee Telecommunications Cooperative: $2,000,000, serving parts of Weakley County
“Every Tennessean should have access to the same high-speed broadband, no matter what ZIP code they live in,” Governor Lee said. “Our continued investment in internet connectivity will help level the playing field for rural communities across our state, and I thank these 13 providers for partnering with us to help nearly 18,000 more Tennesseans get connected.”
Back in February, Governor Lee proposed a one-time investment of $200 million to reach a goal of every Tennessean having access to high-speed broadband. This proposal, combined with significant private sector investment, will help improve educational outcomes, expand access to health care, increase e-commerce and support small businesses in rural communities across the state.
“As many of us have transitioned to a lifestyle of working, telecommuting, and learning from home, we have seen how much we rely on broadband, and those who do not have access are placed at a significant disadvantage,” Rolfe said. “With the support of Gov. Lee and the General Assembly, we will be able to connect more than 7,000 previously unserved homes and businesses to broadband service, positioning rural Tennessee for future success.”
Since 2018, TNECD has awarded nearly $60 million in grants through the Broadband Accessibility Grant Program to serve more than 33,000 homes and businesses and over 83,000 Tennesseans.
Read more about Tennessee’s broadband initiatives at the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development website.