Tennessee announces $10 million in broadband accessibility grants

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced $9.844 million in broadband accessibility grants that will help build new broadband infrastructure in parts of 13 Tennessee counties.

The grants are the result of the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act, Haslam’s 2017 legislation to increase broadband to more Tennesseans and offset the capital expenses of deploying broadband in areas that currently lack access. The grants will provide broadband service to more than 5,000 locations in counties across the state.

Alongside digital literacy grants announced last week, the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act has already supported nearly $10 million in broadband investments across the state.

Providing Underserved Communities with Broadband
“In communities across Tennessee, broadband is an essential service that will increase economic investment and growth to help businesses, families and individuals thrive,” Haslam said. “With the assistance of these grants, underserved communities will now have access to broadband that will benefit not only the communities themselves, but the state as a whole. These grants are a step in the right direction for our state and will help Tennessee reach its full potential.”

TNECD received 71 applications requesting more than $66 million in funding. The nine grantees selected demonstrated a high need for grant funding, the ability to implement and sustain the project long term, strong community support and the economic impact of the infrastructure deployment. Grantees will provide more than $10 million in matching funds for a combined investment of more than $20 million across the state.

“One of our top priorities is creating an environment in Tennessee that promotes job growth and success in rural communities. With the leadership of Gov. Haslam and support of the Tennessee General Assembly, those rural communities will now have access to reliable internet and will be better equipped for success,” Rolfe said.

The grant recipients include:

  • Aeneas Communications: $190,000 to serve parts of Hardeman County
  • Ben Lomand Communications: $1,025,000 to serve the Pocahontas Community in Coffee County
  • Comcast: $850,000 to serve parts of Tipton County
  • DTC Communications: $1,725,000 to serve parts of Smith and Wilson counties
  • Gibson Electric Membership Corporation: $1,353,148.14 to serve parts of Lake and Obion counties
  • Scott County Telephone Cooperative: $1,900,000 to serve Surgoinsville in Hawkins County
  • Sunset Digital Communications: $1,375,000 to serve parts of Claiborne and Hancock counties
  • Tri-County Fiber Communications: $1,350,000 to serve parts of Sumner and Trousdale counties
  • Volunteer First Services: $76,714 to serve the Sunset Ridge Community in Cumberland County

In 2016, TNECD released a commissioned study assessing broadband in Tennessee that found that 13 percent of Tennessee residents do not have access to broadband at federally recognized standards. The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act provides $45 million over three years in grants and tax credits for service providers to assist in making broadband available to unserved homes and businesses. The TBAA also permits private, nonprofit electrical cooperatives to begin providing retail broadband services to their members.