broadbandTennessee has allocated an additional $61 million for broadband. The Tennessee broadband funding is an emergency program to improve service during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing grants to service providers.

The grants, which were announced by the governor’s office and the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund, are being funded through the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund allotment from the federal government. The funds will be distributed through the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD).

“The COVID-19 pandemic has only further elevated the importance of access to reliable, affordable broadband internet to facilitate telemedicine, distance learning, and telecommuting,” Governor Lee said in a press release about the Tennessee broadband funding. “I thank the members of our Financial Stimulus Accountability Group and the Department of Economic and Community Development for their work in distributing these funds to shovel-ready projects that will directly benefit Tennesseans.”

The General Assembly already had allocated $60 million, so the investment slightly more than doubles the existing allocation. The ECD has received 84 grant applications for a total of $89.1 million. Subsequent to a comment period, 62 projects totaling $61.1 million will be funded. The press release says that $28 million in applications were denied due to “factors including project feasibility, applicant experience, and public comments received from existing broadband providers.”

Sponsors of unfunded projects will be able to apply to the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Grant Program, which is funded at $15 million. Applications in this program are given significantly more time to complete project builds, according to the press release. The projects must be COVID-19 related.

Investment in broadband on the state level is ongoing. In July, 2019, the Pew Charitable Trusts found that the majority of states have broadband programs, although not all have a funding component.

Such initiatives are having an impact, according to WhistleOut, operator of a search engine that helps consumers find internet plans for their area. WhistleOut found that there were broadband funding programs in four of the five states that have seen the greatest increase in internet connection speeds since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Image courtesy of flickr user Sean MacEntee

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