The state's cooperative and independent broadband companies demonstrated their continued leadership in connecting rural Tennessee this week, earning a majority of the grants awarded by the Department of Economic and Community Development through the Broadband Accessibility Grant program.
Members of the Tennessee Telecommunications Association received eight of the 13 awards announced today, representing almost $8.5 million of the $15 million awarded by the state. The projects funded will bring broadband access to 3,751 unserved homes and businesses in 10 counties.
"Today, the state partnered with Tennessee's cooperative and independent telcos to take another step toward addressing the rural broadband challenge," said Levoy Knowles, executive director of the TTA. "This public/private partnership resulted in a major investment in rural broadband last year, and we're proud to continue that partnership with today's announcements."
Tennessee Telecommunications Association's member companies receiving grants were:
• BTC Communications (a subsidiary of Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative): $701,102.16 to serve the Walden's Ridge community of Rhea County
• Ben Lomand Communications (a subsidiary of Ben Lomand Connect): $1,525,477.78 to serve the Normandy community of Coffee County
• Loretto Telephone Company: $1,050,000 to serve the St. Joseph area of southern Lawrence County
• North Central Communications (a subsidiary of North Central Telephone Cooperative): $304,763 to serve the Parker/Thurman area of northern Sumner County
• Peoples Telephone Company: $186,494 to serve part of the Danville community in Houston County
• TDS Telecom: $1,490,291 to serve the Vonore community in Monroe County
• Twin Lakes: $1,233,987.30 to serve North Springs and Highland in Jackson County, Baxter in Putnam County, and Chestnut Mound in Smith County
• WK&T Telecommunications Cooperative: $2 million to serve a portion of eastern Henry County
The recipients will match these grants with millions of dollars locally to complete the broadband projects. Many of the companies that comprise the TTA have served their communities for 60 or more years.
In addition to building fiber networks in their incumbent territories, many have extended service to neighboring communities in an effort to bring broadband service to more rural Tennesseans. Knowles said Tennessee Telecommunications Association member companies are encouraged to see that Gov. Bill Lee's proposed state budget increases the Broadband Accessibility Grant Program by $5 million to a total of $20 million for the next round.