NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Gov. Bill Lee and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced Friday $14.9 million in broadband accessibility grants.

Thirteen broadband providers, including six serving seven East Tennessee counties, received funding that will expand service to support 17,800 people.

“Every Tennessean should have access to the same high-speed broadband, no matter what ZIP code they live in,” Lee said. “Our continued investment in internet connectivity will help level the playing field for rural communities across our state, and I thank these 13 providers for partnering with us to help nearly 18,000 more Tennesseans get connected.”

East Tennessee grant recipients include:

  • Appalachian Electric Cooperative: $919,500.00 serving parts of Grainger County
  • Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative: $727,955.56 serving parts of Bledsoe County
  • Comcast: $33,333.33 serving parts of Roane County
  • Point Broadband: $1,020,948.89 serving parts of Hawkins and Hancock counties
  • Volunteer Energy Cooperative: $647,890.00 serving parts of Meigs County
  • Volunteer First Services: $1,924,783.33 serving parts of Cumberland County

According to the FCC’s 2020 Broadband Deployment Report, one in six rural Tennesseans lack access to broadband. Since 2018, the state Economic and Community Development Department has awarded nearly $60 million in grants to serve more than 33,000 homes and businesses, and over 83,000 Tennesseans.

“As many of us have transitioned to a lifestyle of working, telecommuting and learning from home, we have seen how much we rely on broadband, and those who do not have access are placed at a significant disadvantage,” Rolfe said. “With the support of Governor Lee and the General Assembly, we will be able to connect more than 7,000 previously unserved homes and businesses to broadband service, positioning rural Tennessee for future success.”

Grantees will provide $21.1 million in matching funds to complete the projects for a combined investment of $36 million across the state. Infrastructure should be built out within two years of receiving the grant funds.