KNOXVILLE, Tenn (WATE) — Bad internet connection at your house? Maybe not for long if you’re in East Tennessee.
On Monday, Gov. Bill Lee and Commissioner Stuart McWhorter announced a $447 million investment in broadband infrastructure to bring unserved broadband access to unserved areas across the state. East Tennessee utility companies will receive about 10 percent of that funding.
Knoxville Utility Board is receiving $15.2 million to expand broadband service in Jefferson, Sevier and Union counties. Another $8.6 million is granted to the Appalachian Electric Cooperative for Jefferson, Grainger and Hamblen counties. Newport Utilities, Highland Communications and Comcast in Anderson, Knox and Hamilton counties will also see a share of the funding.
“In today’s world, reliable broadband is as essential as water and electricity,” said Representative Patsy Hazlewood (R – Signal Mountain).
In this round, the state received 218 applications requesting $1.2 billion, according to the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development. Just 75 of those applications — submitted by 36 agencies — will received funding.
Companies receiving grants must provide matching funds and must complete the projects within 3 years.
KUB has already been working to expand broadband in Knox County. The first round of a major upgrade is scheduled to be available to customers in some parts of the county this fall.
“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.”
One in 6 Tennesseans lack access to broadband, according to a 2020 report by the Federal Communications Commission.
“Monroe County is very excited to partner with our friends at TDS once again to provide much needed infrastructure in underserved communities in our county. Thank you to the State of Tennessee for having the confidence in us to be good stewards of these grant monies,” said Monroe County Mayor Mitch Ingram.
Parameters that determine whether a community has adequate broadband have changed as the digital age advances. A wireless connection capable of minimum speeds of 100 megabits per second download and 20 Mbps upload is now considered “unserved.”
Funding for these grants comes through the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund – American Rescue Plan, which uses a portion of the state’s federal American Rescue Plan funds to address the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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
“Our world is increasingly interconnected. In order for Tennesseans to thrive in this interconnected world, broadband internet must be accessible,” said Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally (R – Oak Ridge). “These grants will greatly expand our broadband footprint in Tennessee giving our citizens the tools to access information, educate themselves and do business like never before. I’m grateful to Governor Lee and Commissioner McWhorter as well Commissioner Eley and my legislative colleagues on the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group for directing these dollars to benefit our citizens and our state.”