September 20, 2022
By: Dwayne Page
DeKalb Telephone Cooperative (dba) DTC Communications Receives Over $15.6 Million in TNECD Grants to Expand Internet Access Serving Portions of DeKalb and Cannon Counties. The grand total is $15,627,524.71
The award was announced last week by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) Commissioner Stuart McWhorter that the state will provide $446,770,282 in grants to expand Internet access in the United States will fund the entire state of Tennessee.
Overall, the broadband infrastructure grants will provide broadband access to more than 150,000 unserviced homes and businesses in 58 counties.
“People are moving to Tennessee in record numbers from across the country, and we have an obligation to prepare our state for continued growth,” said Gov. 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 effectively managing dollars serving Tennessee residents.”
According to the 2020 Broadband Deployment Report published by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), one in six residents of Tennessee does not have access to broadband. Since 2018, TNECD has awarded nearly $120 million in broadband grants through state and federal funds to serve more than 140,000 Tennessee homes.
“To achieve economic growth and prosperity, it is imperative that Tennessee communities have the right infrastructure,” McWhorter said. “The $447 million in funding awarded will bring broadband access to 36 grantees across 75 projects in 58 Tennessee counties, and we look forward to seeing these grants fuel continued success in each community.”
The US Treasury Department previously defined “unserviced areas” as not having access to a wireless connection with a minimum speed of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload. However, due to the increasing demands of the digital age, any connection that offers a download speed of less than 100 Mbit/s and an upload speed of 20 Mbit/s is now considered “unserved”. With this new definition in mind, applications with the lowest Internet speeds were still given priority, but all applications under this new definition of “unserved” were considered.
Funding for these grants is provided by the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund – American Rescue Plan (TEBF-ARP), which is using a portion of the state’s American Rescue Plan funding to help manage the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and look forward to a strong recovery to work towards . Tennessee’s Fiscal Stimulus Accountability Group (FSAG) committed $500 million in broadband funding from this program, with more than $446 million going into infrastructure and nearly $50 million toward broadband adoption and digital literacy efforts flowed.
“Our world is increasingly networked. In order for Tennessees to thrive in this connected world, broadband Internet must be accessible,” said Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally (R – Oak Ridge). “These grants will significantly expand our broadband footprint in Tennessee and give our citizens the tools to access information, educate themselves and do business like never before. I am grateful to Governor Lee and Commissioner McWhorter, as well as Commissioner Eley and my fellow lawmakers at the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group, for channeling these dollars for the benefit of our citizens and our state.”
“Tennessee has seen significant growth in every region of our state over the past decade. This significant investment in our broadband infrastructure will enable more citizens to access high-speed broadband at work, at home and at school,” said spokesman Cameron Sexton (R – Crossville). “I appreciate Governor Lee, Lieutenant Governor McNally, Commissioner McWhorter, Commissioner Eley and the members of the Fiscal Stimulus Accountability Group for their effective and dedicated partnership as we all continue to work together to increase service reliability across the state.”
“Broadband is critical to the growth and prosperity of our rural communities,” said Senator Bo Watson (R – Hixson).
“Because of our conservative approach to budgetary management, we have the opportunity to invest in important projects, such as broadband roll-out, which will boost future economic growth. I am confident that this investment will bring great returns for our state and its citizens.”
“In today’s world, reliable broadband is as important as water and electricity,” said Representative Patsy Hazlewood (R – Signal Mountain). “This expansion will be transformative for Tennessee families and businesses by removing barriers to commerce, healthcare and education opportunities, and other necessities of modern life.”
For this round of funding, TNECD received 218 applications requesting over $1.2 billion.
The final grants will be divided among 75 applications submitted by 36 grantees, all of whom will provide broadband in various underserved regions of Tennessee. These grantees are a range of Internet service providers, including electricity and telephone cooperatives, municipalities, private providers and cable companies. These grantees were selected based on a rigorous criterion that included necessity of the grant area, ability to complete the project, and strong community support.
The grantees will provide approximately $331 million in matching funds to complete these projects, representing a total investment of $778 million in new broadband infrastructure projects statewide. These projects must be completed within three years.