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State announces $163M to expand broadband

Posted on Wednesday, May 8, 2024 at 7:55 am

United Communications, Bedford Co. to be included

From Staff Reports

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter announced on Tuesday that the state will award $162.7 million in broadband and digital opportunity grants.

In total, these investments will provide broadband access and digital opportunity programs to more than 236,000 Tennesseans across 92 counties.

United Communications, which services parts of Franklin, Moore, Rutherford, Marshall, and Bedford counties will receive two grants: $3,150,106.56 (for Franklin, Moore, and Bedford) and $3,058,513.28 (for Bedford, Rutherford and Marshall).

Tracey Strassner, who helped lead a group to obtain these grants, explained, “Governor Lee just announced [that] our ‘Last Mile / Middle Mile’ broadband plan has been selected to receive the full funding amount for our multi-county fiber installation Project.

“Our group spent over a year preparing for this moment. We completed an intensive ‘Broadband Boot Camp’ that prepared us. We partnered with a great provider, and we outlined a solid multi-county concept that will help, not just Bedford County, but our surrounding neighbors get faster, reliable, and affordable high-speed fiber. United Communications and our partners at Duck River Electric were sensational. Our consultants with the Benton Group proved to be invaluable with their advice and direction.”

Strassner added that they are not through yet. She said this ‘Last Mile / Middle Mile’ grant is the precursor to the BEAD Grant (Broadband Equity, Access & Deployment Program).

Overall, TNECD has invested more than $715 million to expand the state’s broadband infrastructure, connecting more than 689,000 Tennesseans across 275,000 residential and business locations.

A total of $97.2 million is being funded by the Last Mile and Middle Mile infrastructure programs, and $65.5 million will be invested in digital opportunity programs. These initiatives
are part of a broader strategy to ensure that all residents have access to high-speed internet by 2028, and have opportunities to develop digital skills, access high-quality tech jobs, connect to
broadband enabled devices and access online learning and telehealth resources. TNECD’s investment of $97.2 million in broadband infrastructure will provide access to more than 58,200 Tennesseans across 23,000 locations in 37 counties.

“This is a win for every single person in Bedford County,” she said.

A press release by TNECD Media Contact Lindsey Tipton, Director of Communications, contributed to this story.