State expands service to 17,800 Tennesseans in 15 rural counties
NASHVILLE – Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe recently announced $14.9 million in broadband accessibility grants that will expand service to support 17,800 unserved Tennesseans in 7,120 homes and businesses. Volunteer First Services will receive $1,924,783.33 to service parts of Cumberland County.
“Every Tennessean should have access to the same high-speed broadband, no matter what zip code they live in,” said Lee. “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.”
In his recent State of the State address, Lee proposed a record investment of $200 million to achieve 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.
According to the FCC’s 2020 Broadband Deployment Report, one in six rural Tennesseans lack access to broadband. 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.
“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 Governor 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.”
This is the fourth round of the Broadband Accessibility Grant program, which remains highly competitive. TNECD received grant applications requesting more than $40 million in funding.
The 13 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 $21.1 million in matching 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.
This round’s grant recipients include:
- Appalachian Electric Cooperative: $919,500.00 serving parts of Grainger County
- Ben Lomand Communications: $179,695.56 serving parts of Coffee County
- Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative: $727,955.56 serving parts of Bledsoe County
- Comcast: $33,333.33 serving parts of Roane County
- Gibson Electric Membership Corporation: $1,379,944.00 serving parts of Obion County
- Loretto Telephone Company: $1,700,000.00 serving parts of Lawrence County
- Peoples Telephone Company (TEC): $2,000,000.00 serving parts of Benton County
- Point Broadband: $1,020,948.89 serving parts of Hawkins and Hancock counties
- Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Cooperative: $1,580,851.00 serving parts of Lauderdale County
- United Communications: $782,976.00 serving parts of Bedford and Marshall counties
- Volunteer Energy Cooperative: $647,890.00 serving parts of Meigs County
- Volunteer First Services: $1,924,783.33 serving parts of Cumberland County
- West Kentucky Rural Telephone Cooperative: $2,000,000.00 serving parts of Weakley County
To learn more about Tennessee’s broadband initiatives, visit tn.gov/broadband.