A mix of telecom and electric co-op broadband providers have been granted close to $15 million for Tennessee rural broadband projects. The expansion will bring broadband to an additional 8,300 locations across 17 counties, says Tennessee’s Governor Bill Lee.
Tennessee enacted the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act (TBAA) in 2017 to provide funding and other resources for the expansion of Tennessee rural broadband. The program is administered by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.
“I am pleased to announce that we are getting our rural areas up to speed and expanding broadband in the areas that need it most,” said Governor Lee in a prepared statement. “I am committed to ensuring connectivity in every corner of our state as broadband impacts our goals for health care, education, economic development and beyond.”
The following providers received $14.8 million in funding awards for this round of the program:
- Appalachian Electric Cooperative: $1,739,581 serving parts of Jefferson and Grainger Counties
- BTC Communications: $701,102.16 serving the Walden Ridge Community in Rhea County
- Ben Lomand Communications: $1,525,477.78 serving the Normandy community in Coffee County
- Gibson Electric Membership Corporation: $588,974 serving the Gadsden Community in Crockett County and part of Gibson County
- Loretto Telephone Company: $1,050,000 serving parts of Lawrence County
- Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative: $1,832,728.16 serving part of Humphreys County
- North Central Communications: $304,763 serving part of rural Sumner County
- Peoples Telephone Company: $186,494 serving part of the Danville community in Houston County
- Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative: $817,406 serving the Griffith Creek community in Marion County
- TDS Telecom: $1,490,291 serving the Vonore community in Monroe County
- Twin Lakes Telephone Cooperative: $1,233,987.30 serving parts of Jackson, Smith, and Putnam Counties
- Volunteer Energy Cooperative: $1,317,488.45 serving the Spring Creek community in McMinn County
- WK&T Telecommunications Cooperative: $2,000,000 serving part of Henry County
These grantees have committed to provide $20M in matching funds, for a combined investment of $35 million. Construction should be completed within two years of receiving the funding.
TDS commented on their $1.49M award, saying “As part of the Governor’s announcement, TDS will receive half of the $2.98M needed to build out service in Vonore. Through this 50/50 grant, TDS will receive just over $1.49M to deliver internet speeds, of 100 Mbps or greater, to 740 households.”
The TBAA, passed in 2017, provides $45 million over three years through grants and tax credits. The TBAA also enabled the state’s electric cooperatives to begin offering retail broadband services. In addition to direct funding, the program also offers tax credits based on the purchase of broadband equipment to be used in Tennessee.