State announces broadband internet access grants

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) Commissioner Stuart McWhorter announced today that the state will award $446,770,282 in grants for the expansion of internet access across the state of Tennessee.

In total, the broadband infrastructure grants will provide broadband access to more than 150,000 unserved homes and businesses across 58 counties.

“People are moving to Tennessee from across the nation in record numbers, and we have an obligation to prepare our state for continued growth,” said Governor Bill Lee. “Our strategic investments in broadband infrastructure will ensure our rural communities are connected and have every opportunity to thrive, and I thank the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group for managing dollars effectively to serve Tennesseans.”

According to the 2020 Broadband Deployment Report published by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), one in six rural Tennesseans lacks access to broadband. Since 2018, TNECD has awarded nearly $120 million in broadband grants through state and federal funding to serve more than 140,000 Tennessee households.

“To achieve economic growth and prosperity, it’s imperative that Tennessee’s communities have the proper infrastructure in place,” McWhorter said. “Thanks to the $447 million awarded in funding, broadband access will be available to 36 grantees with 75 projects across 58 Tennessee counties, and we look forward to seeing how these grants spur further success among each community.”

The U.S. Department of the Treasury previously defined “unserved areas” as lacking access to a wireless connection capable of minimum speeds of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload. However, due to the increasing demands of the digital age, any connection that provides lower than 100 Mbps download speed and 20 Mbps upload speed is now deemed “unserved.” In consideration of this new definition, application priority was still given to those with the lowest internet speeds, but all applications under this new definition of “unserved” were considered.

Funding for these grants comes through the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund – American Rescue Plan (TEBF-ARP), which utilizes a portion of the state’s federal American Rescue Plan funds to address the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and work toward a strong recovery. Tennessee’s Fiscal Stimulus Accountability Group (FSAG) dedicated $500 million to broadband funding from this program, with more than $446 million going to infrastructure and nearly $50 million going to broadband adoption and digital literacy efforts.

For this round of funding, TNECD received 218 applications requesting over $1.2 billion. 

The final grants will be distributed across 75 applications submitted by 36 grantees, all of whom will provide broadband to various unserved regions of Tennessee. These grantees are a range of internet service providers, including electrical and telephone cooperatives, local municipalities, private providers and cable companies. These grant recipients were chosen through a rigorous criterion, which included the need of the grant area, the ability to complete the project and strong community support.

Grantees will provide approximately $331 million in matching funds to complete these projects for a combined investment of $778 million in new broadband infrastructure projects across the state. These projects must be completed within three years.

Below is a list of the TEBF-ARP recipients for the latest round of funding:

  • Aeneas Communications, LLC

$3,680,631.00 – serving parts of Haywood and Fayette counties

  • Appalachian Electric Cooperative

$8,631,244.48 – serving parts of Jefferson, Grainger and Hamblen counties

  • Ardmore Telephone Company, Inc.

$11,446,165.50 – serving parts of Giles and Lincoln counties

  • AT&T Tennessee

$499,730.04 – serving parts of Dickson County

  • Ben Lomand

$23,912,632.40 – serving parts of Coffee and Cumberland counties

  • Board of Public Utilities of the City of Fayetteville, Lincoln County, Tennessee

$8,899,590.00 – serving parts of Lincoln County

  • Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative

$17,729,814.96 – serving parts of Bledsoe, Sequatchie and Van Buren counties

  • Bolivar Energy Authority

$20,168,743.18 – serving parts of Fayette, Chester and Madison counties

  • BTC Communications, LLC

$5,066,519.04 – serving parts of Rhea and Cumberland counties

  • Charter Communications, Inc.

$20,429,809.00 – serving parts of Benton, Carroll, Loudon, McMinn, McNairy and Meigs counties

  • Chickasaw Electric Cooperative

$13,134,933.00 – serving parts of Fayette and Hardeman counties

  • Comcast Cable Communications, LLC

$2,248,364.71 – serving parts of Anderson, Hamilton and Knox counties

  • Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation

$17,500,000.00 – serving parts of Robertson and Sumner counties

  • DeKalb Telephone Cooperative, Inc.

$15,627,524.71 – serving parts of Cannon and DeKalb counties

  • Dickson Electric Department

$860,236.23 – serving parts of Houston County

  • Gibson Electric Membership Corporation

$2,071,780.49 – serving parts of Crockett and Obion counties

  • Greeneville Energy Authority

$8,262,340.32 – serving parts of Greene County

  • Highland Communications LLC

$15,481,719.33 – serving parts of Campbell, Anderson, Claiborne and Union counties

  • Knoxville Utilities Board

$15,259,160.00 – serving parts of Jefferson, Sevier and Union counties

  • Lexington Electric System

$27,490,416.30 – serving parts of Henderson, Decatur, Benton, Carroll and Hardin counties

  • Loretto Telecom

$7,466,068.00 – serving parts of Lawrence County

  • Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative

$4,500,000.00 – serving parts of Hickman County

  • Newport Utilities

$2,457,797.35 – serving parts of Jefferson and Cocke counties

  • Peoples Telephone Company

$5,385,719.50 – serving parts of Henry, Benton and Carroll counties

  • Pulaski Electric System (PES)

$23,161,638.53 – serving parts of Giles County

  • Ritter Communications

$3,892,323.22 – serving parts of Shelby and Tipton counties

  • Scott County Telephone Co-Operative

$13,128,551.76 – serving parts of Claiborne, Hancock and Union counties

  • SkyBest Communications, Inc.

$5,700,655.92 – serving parts of Carter and Johnson counties

  • Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation

$15,503,408.78 – serving parts of Chester, Haywood and Tipton counties

  • Spring City Cable TV, Inc.

$1,925,574.21 – serving parts of Rhea, Bledsoe and Cumberland counties

  • Tellico Telephone Company

$12,958,999.00 – serving parts of Monroe County

  • Tennessee Valley Electric Cooperative

$21,847,496.68 – serving parts of Hardin and Wayne counties

  • Twin Lakes Communications, Inc.

$10,432,621.00 – serving parts of Putnam County

  • United Telephone Company

$53,362,147.00 – serving parts of Bedford, Giles, Lincoln, Moore, Maury and Williamson counties

  • Volunteer Energy Cooperative

$15,397,511.96 – serving parts of Williamson, Bradley and Polk counties

  • West Kentucky Rural Telephone Cooperative Corporation, Inc.

$12,326,355.30 – serving parts of Weakley County

To learn more about Tennessee’s broadband initiatives, please visit tn.gov/broadband

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:30 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, and cats Oliver, Bow and Libby.

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