Three internet service providers have been awarded grants to expand broadband internet service in Cumberland County.
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development announced $447 million in broadband infrastructure grants Monday afternoon intended to expand internet access across the state.
Ben Lomand was awarded $23.9 million for internet expansion projects in Coffee and Cumberland counties. BTC Communications will receive $5 million for a project serving parts of Rhea and Cumberland counties. Spring City Cable TV Inc. received $1.9 million for expansion projects to serve parts of Rhea, Bledsoe and Cumberland counties.
“This is an extremely exciting announcement for the people of Cumberland County,” Cumberland County Mayor Allen Foster told the Chronicle. “Four years ago, when I took office, I made a promise that I would do all I could to improve broadband access in our community. Over the last few years, we have helped multiple providers apply for grants and other funding to help solve our broadband issues. These grants will go a long way toward doing just that. The years of hard work are finally paying off for the citizens of Cumberland County!”
Prior to Monday’s announcement, internet providers had received about $20.4 million for broadband projects in Cumberland County. Those grants will expand service to more than 9,000 new addresses.
“This will increase those numbers to approximately $65 million being invested in Cumberland County broadband, and almost 18,000 new address points being served,” Foster said.
That total includes investment by the internet providers, which must provide matching funds for many grant programs.
Funding for the state grants will come from the federal American Rescue Plan allocated to the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund. Tennessee’s Fiscal Stimulus Accountability Group dedicated $500 million to broadband funding from this program. Nearly $50 million in funding will go toward broadband adoption and digital literacy efforts.
This round of funding included 218 applications requesting more than $1.2 billion in grant funds. The final grants are distributed across 75 applications submitted by 36 grantees, all of whom provide broadband to various unserved regions of Tennessee. Grantees will provide about $331 million in matching funds to complete projects for a combined investment of $778 million. Projects must be completed within three years.