Posted on: Friday - Aug 24, 2018

Broadband opens new opportunities every day. From economic development and education to agriculture and healthcare, the possibilities are unlimited. 

However, not all Tennessee communities have the connectivity they need to thrive in an increasingly digital economy. TNECD is working diligently with communities and providers to address these gaps. 

These efforts are already beginning to pay off. Thanks to the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act of 2017, the willingness of Gov. Haslam and our legislature to take on this issue, Tennessee is making progress. In response, providers of all types are working to expand their networks. 

The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act launched state efforts to incentivize and support deployment and adoption of broadband in unserved areas across the state. The legislation focused on three main areas: investment, deregulation, and education.

Here are a few of the results of the first year of implementation of these strategies: 

  • Investment – In January 2018, TNECD awarded nearly $10 million in funding to serve 5,200 customers across 13 counties. The providers receiving the first round of Broadband Accessibility Grants also matched more than $10.8 million in private investment. Residents in some areas are already receiving service as the grantees work to complete the projects within the next 18 months.  
  • Deregulation – Eight electric cooperatives across the state are working to bring broadband to some of our most rural areas with others considering how to best serve their members. We are seeing partnerships and innovative solutions develop to expand connectivity, including the partnership between Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation and United Communications, announced on Aug. 24 in rural Williamson County.
  • Education – Early this year, TNECD awarded 52 digital literacy grants to local libraries to provide educational opportunities to increase broadband adoption and utilization.

Alongside these efforts, communities are removing barriers to broadband deployment by participating in TNECD’s Broadband Ready Community program. To date, 25 political subdivisions have achieved the Broadband Ready Community designation by passing an ordinance or policy that streamlines regulation related to broadband deployment. Interested communities can find more information here.

This early success lays the foundation for TNECD’s continued efforts to meet community needs and extend access to all areas of the state. If you, or your community, are interested in opportunities to enhance broadband access or adoption, there are several upcoming grant opportunities:

  • Round 2 of the Broadband Accessibility Grants will launch next week with applications due in mid-November. This grant helps providers offset the cost of infrastructure to serve unserved, high-cost areas. More information about the application process is available here. 
  • The application for round 2 of the digital literacy grants to local libraries is currently available through the Tennessee State Library and Archive.
  • A new downtown Wi-Fi grant is available for communities within the ARC region. The grant funds free public Wi-Fi in downtown areas to support downtown development, tourism, and broadband adoption. More information is available here.

Broadband access for our Tennessee communities continues to be one of our main objectives at TNECD. We need your support to continue the current momentum. Our broadband team is ready and available to work with providers and communities to identify solutions to connectivity challenges. To learn more about broadband opportunities in Tennessee and for resources on broadband, visit tn.gov/broadband.