Governor Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe on Friday, April 3 announced $19.7 million in broadband accessibility grants to expand service to support 31,000 unserved Tennesseans in nearly 12,700 households and businesses.
Gov. Lee said, “One of my top priorities is ensuring the success of rural Tennessee. With the assistance of these grants, communities across 21 counties will now have access to broadband that will aid in that success. I applaud the efforts of these 17 broadband providers as they play a fundamental role in our efforts to boost rural communities throughout Tennessee.”
Twin Lakes Telephone Cooperative is among those 17 broadband providers and will receive $1,406,000 to serve parts of Overton and Fentress counties.
The state continues to focus on expanding broadband access in rural areas. According to the FCC’s 2019 Broadband Deployment Report, nearly one in four rural Tennesseans lack access to broadband. In response, Gov. Lee has included $25 million in his fiscal year 2021 recommended budget to continue the grant program.
Tennessee’s broadband program has been recognized nationally for its efforts to expand broadband connectivity, most recently in a report by The Pew Charitable Trusts on “How States are Expanding Broadband Access”. The report highlights Tennessee’s investment in broadband infrastructure with a dedicated grant program and efforts to address adoption and digital literacy.
Commissioner Rolfe said, “With the leadership of Governor Lee and support of the General Assembly, we are able to position rural Tennessee to compete on a level playing field. Since 2018, funds have been awarded to connect 34,000 Tennesseans to broadband, and we are proud that this round of funding will nearly double that amount.”
The 17 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 $29.8 million in matching funds to complete the projects for a combined investment of $49.5 million across the state in this third year of the program. Infrastructure should be built out with customers able to sign up for service within two years of receiving the grant funds.
For more information about Tennessee’s broadband initiatives visit tn.gov/broadband.