Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe last week announced $19.7 million in broadband accessibility grants that will expand service to support 31,000 unserved Tennesseans in nearly 12,700 households and businesses.
“One of my top priorities is ensuring the success of rural Tennessee. With the assistance of these grants, communities across 21 counties will now have access to broadband that will aid in that success,” Lee said. “I applaud the efforts of these 17 broadband providers as they play a fundamental role in our efforts to boost rural communities throughout Tennessee.”
The State continues to focus on expanding broadband access in rural areas. According to the FCC’s 2019 Broadband Deployment Report, nearly one in four rural Tennesseans lack access to broadband. In response, Gov. Lee has included $25 million in his fiscal year 2021 recommended budget to continue the grant program.
Tennessee’s broadband program has been recognized nationally for its efforts to expand broadband connectivity, most recently in a report by The Pew Charitable Trusts on “How States are Expanding Broadband Access.” The report highlights Tennessee’s investment in broadband infrastructure with a dedicated grant program and efforts to address adoption and digital literacy.
“With the leadership of Governor Lee and support of the General Assembly, we are able to position rural Tennessee to compete on a level playing field,” Rolfe said. “Since 2018, funds have been awarded to connect 34,000 Tennesseans to broadband, and we are proud that this round of funding will nearly double that amount.”
The 17 grant recipients demonstrated a high need for grant funding as well as the ability to implement and sustain the projects long-term with strong community support.
Grantees will provide $29.8 million in matching funds to complete the projects for a combined investment of $49.5 million across the state in this third year of the program. Infrastructure should be built out with customers able to sign up for service within two years of receiving the grant funds.
This round’s grant recipients include:
• Ben Lomand Connect: $2,000,000 serving parts of Cumberland County
• BTC Fiber: $1,500,000 serving parts of Bledsoe County
• Charter Communications (Spectrum): $140,433 serving parts of Henderson County
• Comcast: $568,509.64 serving parts of Cheatham and Dickson Counties
• Fayetteville Public Utilities: $1,750,000 serving parts of Lincoln County
• Forked Deer Electric Cooperative: $719,921 serving parts of Haywood and Lauderdale Counties
• Gibson Electric Membership Corporation: $703,518 serving parts of Obion County
• HolstonConnect, LLC: $361,211 serving the Mooresburg community in Hamblen and Hawkins Counties
• Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative: $593,166 serving parts of south Perry County
• PVECFiber and Scott County Telephone Cooperative: $1,908,811.24 serving part of Union County
• SVEConnect: $1,654,882 serving the Battle Creek and South Pittsburg Mountain communities in Marion County
• Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Cooperative: $1,768,686 serving parts near the Brownsville community in Haywood County
• TEC: $826,677.45 serving parts of the Buena Vista and McLemoresville communities in Carroll County
• Tri-County Fiber Communications, LLC: $501,811 serving parts of Trousdale County
• Twin Lakes Telephone Cooperative: $1,406,000 serving parts of Fentress and Overton Counties
• United Communications: $1,331,504.80 serving the Eagleville community in rural Rutherford and Williamson Counties
• West Kentucky and Tennessee Telecommunications Cooperative: $2,000,000 serving parts of Weakley County
To learn more about Tennessee’s broadband initiatives, visit https://www.tn.gov/ecd/rural-development/tnecd-broadband-initiative.html