United Ribbon Cutting with Governor Lee

Posted: February 3, 2023

State invests $53 million to expand internet access in rural Tennessee

Submitted by United Communications

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart McWhorter and United Communications recently launched $53.4 million in grant-backed projects — the single largest investment of its kind in state history — to expand internet service to more than 14,000 underserved homes and businesses in Middle Tennessee. United Communications and its partners successfully applied for the grants in 2022 through Project UNITE, the company’s initiative to bridge the digital divide in Middle Tennessee.

Based on recent census data, rural Tennesseans are 10 times more likely than their neighbors in urban areas to lack access to fast, reliable internet connections.

“What happens in rural Tennessee matters to every Tennessean,” Lee says. “This is the largest grant of all the grants that the state has made in our history for the expansion of broadband, and it’s a local effort based on local partnerships. We have the No. 1 economy in America, and we need to make sure that is happening in every community across the state. We know that access to technology will make that happen.”

The $53.4 million state grant is being supplemented by a $14 million investment from United Communications and more  than $10 million committed by county governments, resulting in a total infrastructure investment of over $77 million in Middle Tennessee.

“Rural development and economic development are important for the state,” McWhorter says. “We value our local partners, and what we’re announcing today is another example of why those partnerships work.”

The celebration took place at Allenbrooke Farms in Spring Hill during an event attended by over 100 Project UNITE partners, including representatives from Middle Tennessee Electric and Duck River Electric.

Guests also included elected officials, business owners and residents from communities within United’s grant project areas, including portions of Bedford, Franklin, Giles, Lincoln, Marshall, Maury, Moore and Williamson counties.

“United was founded 75 years ago by farmers and rural neighbors who wanted to connect to one another,” says William Bradford, president and CEO of United Communications. “We’re here 75 years later with largely the same mission. Through Project UNITE, we’ve brought service to over 17,000 locations, and we’re just getting started. Thanks to Gov. Lee and our local partners, United is setting out on a path to fix the digital divide for every single Tennessean, once and for all.”

With two office locations in Chapel Hill and Franklin, United is building upon an existing network of over 1,700 miles of fiber backbone in Middle Tennessee to supply high-speed internet, the latest Wi-Fi technology, digital TV and phone service to residential customers and businesses across the region.

More information about Project UNITE, including grant project updates and maps, can be found on the United website.

Governor Bill Lee and Commissioner Stuart McWhorter present a broadband grant funding check to Maury County officials and William Bradford, president and CEO of United Communications. [Photo Credit: Adam Elrod, Middle Tennessee Electric]