Governor Lee Grants Nearly $15 Million to Expand Broadband Access


Tens of thousands more Tennesseans will be getting expanded broadband access soon, thanks to nearly $15 million in grants. Governor Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced this latest funding through the Broadband Accessibility Grant program in a joint press release on Friday.

The press release indicated that the grants would cover over 7,000 homes and businesses, which would impact just under 18,000 citizens. 13 providers were issued the grants in total. Counties impacted by the grants are Grainger, Coffee, Bledsoe, Roane, Obion, Lawrence, Benton, Hancock, Lauderdale, Bedford, Marshall, Meigs, Cumberland, and Weakley. TNECD has allocated nearly $60 million in broadband expansion grants to date.

As The Tennessee Star reported, Lee shared in his State of the State address that he has the goal of investing $200 million to secure broadband for every Tennessee resident.

“Every Tennessean should have access to the same high-speed broadband, no matter what zip code they live in,” stated Lee. “Our continued investment in internet connectivity will help level the playing field for rural communities across our state, and I thank these 13 providers for partnering with us to help nearly 18,000 more Tennesseans get connected.”

Rolfe said that the development was a necessary one, considering how many businesses and schools shifted to remote operations last year over the course of the pandemic.

“As many of us have transitioned to a lifestyle of working, telecommuting and learning from home, we have seen how much we rely on broadband, and those who do not have access are placed at a significant disadvantage,” explained Rolfe.

However, some experts believe that this method of broadband expansion by the state was far from the best deal for taxpayers. The Star reported on research from the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a Nashville-based free market think tank, that revealed that increased funding to local libraries for purchasing mobile hotspots would’ve totaled a mere $1.6 million annually. That’s $13.3 million less than Lee and Rolfe’s plan.

“Fully funding this effort will complement the educational and digital literacy training efforts already being provided by some libraries,” stated Beacon Center of Tennessee Policy and Research Director Ron Shultis. “Closing the gap and bringing service to those nearly one-in-four rural residents still without coverage is not going to happen overnight and is a costly endeavor the state should avoid.”

The grants were allocated as follows: $2 million to West Kentucky Rural Telephone Cooperative, $2 million to Peoples Telephone Company (TEC), over $1.9 million to Volunteer First Services, $1.7 million to Loretto Telephone Company, nearly $1.6 million to Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Cooperative, nearly $1.4 million to Gibson Electric Membership Corporation, over $1 million to Point Broadband, over $919,000 to Appalachian Electric Cooperative, nearly $783,000 to United Communications, nearly $728,000 to Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative, nearly $648,000 to Volunteer Energy Cooperative, nearly $180,000 to Ben Lomand Communications, and over $33,000 to Comcast.

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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].






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One Thought to “Governor Lee Grants Nearly $15 Million to Expand Broadband Access”

  1. 83ragtop50

    Hey, Lee. How about either my cutting taxes or just sending me some of this “free” money? Part of my decision process for choosing my home location was internet access. But I am far enough out to require satellite TV. Again, a choice that I made.

    I am being bled to death moneywise by both my electric coop and my governor. Heck, I should have moved out into the far country and demanded free stuff from them. I do not hold those in the country responsible for these actions. But the choice of home locations do, or at least, should have consequences. This so much reminds me of the out of control spending in Washington.

    Next thing you know the Lee and TVA will want to spend bunches of money to put in charging stations for electric cars that purchase of which were subsidized by tax dollars. Oh! Wait! They are already doing that!!