Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart McWhorter, and United Communications yesterday officially launched $53.4 million in grant-backed projects—the single largest investment of its kind in state history—to expand internet service to more than 14,000 underserved homes and businesses in Middle Tennessee. United operates approximately 1,700 route miles of fiber covering portions of Williamson, Rutherford, Marshall, Bedford, Franklin, Wilson, and Davidson counties.
United Communications and its partners successfully applied for the grants in 2022 through Project UNITE, the company's initiative to bridge the digital divide in Middle Tennessee.
Based on recent census data, rural Tennesseans are ten times more likely than their neighbors in urban areas to lack access to fast, reliable internet connections.
"What happens in rural Tennessee matters to every Tennessean," said Governor Lee. "This is the largest grant of all the grants that the state has made in our history for the expansion of broadband, and it's a local effort based on local partnerships. We have the number one economy in America, and we need to make sure that is happening in every community across the state. We know that access to technology will make that happen."
The $53.4 million state grant is being supplemented by a $14 million investment from United Communications and more than $10 million committed by county governments, resulting in a total infrastructure investment of over $77 million in Middle Tennessee.
"Rural development and economic development are important for the state," said Commissioner McWhorter. "We value our local partners, and what we're announcing today is another example of why those partnerships work."
The celebration took place at Allenbrooke Farms in Spring Hill, Tennessee during an event attended by over 100 Project UNITE partners, including representatives from Middle Tennessee Electric and Duck River Electric.
With two office locations in Chapel Hill and Franklin, United is building upon an existing network of over 1,700 route miles of fiber backbone in Middle Tennessee to supply high-speed internet, the latest Wi-Fi technology, digital TV, and phone service to residential customers and businesses across the region.
More information about Project UNITE, including grant project updates and maps, can be found at united.net/tnecd-grants.