The state of Tennessee will begin accepting applications in September for $185 million in grant funding for broadband deployments in unserved and underserved areas. This includes $60 million in funding for a last mile program and $125 million for a middle mile program.
The awards will be made by the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD) and are funded through the federal Capital Projects Fund program.
For purposes of the new Tennessee programs, unserved areas are defined as those lacking service at speeds of 25/3 Mbps and underserved areas are those lacking service at speeds of at least 100/20 Mbps.
Applicants may include political subdivisions, businesses, cooperatives, and other entities authorized by state law to provide broadband service.
The Tennessee ECD office plans to release maps of eligible areas and additional information next week. A challenge process for eligible areas is scheduled for July 24 to August 11.
The last mile program awards will be for no more than $20 million per county. Each grant will cover 70% of eligible project expenses.
The program is focused on Polk, Hardin and Wayne counties. Areas where state or federal funding has been obligated are not eligible.
The middle mile program awards will cover 70% of eligible project expenses, with a 30% matching fund requirement. All providers participating in the grant program must offer last mile service.
Additional information is available at this link.
The state of Tennessee previously established at least two other broadband funding programs.
More broadband funding will be coming to the state in the BEAD program. The state’s allocation is $813 million in that program.