State officials have allocated nearly $447 million in American Rescue Plan funds for grants to help expand rural internet access in Tennessee, the state Department of Economic and Community Development announced.
One in six rural Tennesseans lacked access to broadband, according to a 2020 report on broadband access published by the Federal Communications Commission.
Funds will cover 75 projects across 58 counties, selected from a pool of 218 applications submitted to the state. An estimated 150,000 previously unserved homes and businesses will have access to broadband when the projects are complete in three years.
“People are moving to Tennessee from across the nation in record numbers, and we have an obligation to prepare our state for continued growth,” Gov. Bill Lee said in a statement. “Our strategic investments in broadband infrastructure will ensure our rural communities are connected and have every opportunity to thrive.”
Funding comes from the state’s Emergency Broadband Fund, using a portion of the state’s American Rescue Plan funds to help address the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
In Middle Tennessee, $17.5 million is allocated to Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, for projects in Robertson and Sumner Counties; $15.4 million will go to Volunteer Energy Cooperative, for projects in Williamson, Bradley, and Polk counties, and $500,000 will go to AT&T Tennessee for a project in Dickson county.
Projects are required to be completed in three years or less.
“Tennessee has experienced considerable growth across all regions of our state over the past decade. Through this significant investment in our broadband infrastructure, more citizens will have the option to access high-speed broadband services at work, in their homes and in schools,” said House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville.
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.