Nashville – State officials on Friday awarded $61 million in emergency broadband grants, with $40 million going to Tennessee’s electric co-ops. The grants were awarded through the recently created Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us that broadband is essential for modern life,” said Mike Knotts, vice president of government affairs with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “From telemedicine and distance learning to telecommuting and e–commerce, Tennessee’s rural communities must have reliable and affordable access to high–speed internet. Families and businesses in rural communities unfortunately understand what life is like without internet access, so today’s announcement is welcomed news.”
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development worked with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and other stakeholders to develop the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund using a portion of resources allocated to Tennessee through the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Recipients must utilize the funds before the end of 2020.
Nearly 70 percent of the funds awarded went to electric cooperatives. “When the state asked ‘Who can build rural broadband quickly?’ they turned to electric co-ops,” said Knotts. “Tennessee’s co-ops are demonstrating their ability to expand access quickly and leverage grant funds for maximum impact. We appreciate the trust and confidence Governor Lee has placed in us through today’s announcement.”
Tennessee’s electric co-ops will immediately begin construction on 29 separate projects to bring broadband to locations that currently do not have access. These projects will enable tens of thousands of people in some of the most remote parts of the state to participate in modern work, education and commerce. Broadband expansion will also improve Tennessee’s ability to respond to current and future public health emergencies.