Governor Lee Targets Tennessee For Statewide Broadband Access

Governor Lee Targets Tennessee For Statewide Broadband Access

On Friday, August 21st, Governor Bill Lee along with the Tennessee’s Financial Stimulus Accountability Group issued a statement that $61 million will be allocated to Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund grants.

Governor Lee stated, “The COVID-19 pandemic has elevated the importance of critical broadband infrastructure to facilitating participation in telemedicine, distance learning, and telecommuting. Reliable, affordable broadband service is necessary to meet these needs in Tennessee’s communities.”

The Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund appropriates a portion of Tennessee’s Coronavirus Relief Fund with the aim of enhancing broadband infrastructure and access to individuals and families affected during the COVID-19 pandemic by the lack of broadband access in their area.

According to the statement issued by the Governor’s office, projects had to meet the Coronavirus Relief Fund’s criteria, which lays out that any project must address public health and safety by improving opportunities for telemedicine, distance learning, and public safety.

To be eligible, applicants had to be authorized to provide retail broadband in the area proposed to be served with grant funding. 

Types of eligible applicants included Political subdivisions or entities of political subdivisions, corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships or other business entities, cooperatives organized under Tenn. Code. Ann. § 65-25-101 et seq. and § 65-29-101 et seq., and any other entity authorizes by state law to provide broadband services.

The grant funding can only be used to pay for costs associated with deployment of broadband to unserved areas and the maximum grant request was capped at $2 million. 

The department of Economic and Community Development collected a total of 84 applications in excess of $89 million requested in funding.  After a review and a public comment period ending on August 12th, 62 projects were greenlit representing $61.1 million in grants.

Awards were announced on August 21st and will be distributed through the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

The statement issued by the Governor’s office related that the remaining $28 million in projects were denied “due to a number of factors including project feasibility, applicant experience, and public comments received from existing broadband providers.”

The applicants that were denied funding by the Tennessee Emergency Broadband fund will be invited to submit an application for the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Grant Program. More information on the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund can be found on the tn.gov website.

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