- TNECD to introduce two new programs aimed at expanding internet access across the state
- Grants to enhance service in most underserved and unserved communities
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter announced today the department will offer up to $185 million in grants to expand internet access in Tennessee.
Starting in September 2023, TNECD will provide grants allocated through the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group to expand broadband access in Tennessee’s underserved and unserved areas through two programs: TNECD Last Mile and Middle Mile Grants.
“As Tennessee continues to experience record economic growth and job creation, we’re committed to furthering our administration-wide mission to expand opportunity in rural and underserved communities across our state,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “What happens in rural Tennessee matters to all Tennesseans, and I thank the General Assembly and the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group for partnering with us to expand broadband infrastructure and provide critical resources to Tennesseans across our state.”
The Last Mile Grant Program will offer up to $60 million to internet service providers across unserved and underserved areas in Hardin, Wayne, and Polk counties. These communities lack broadband at speeds of 100/20 Megabits per second (Mbps) and were selected due to their percentage of unserved and underserved residential locations compared to other counties in the state.
The Middle Mile Grant Program will offer up to $125 million to internet service providers in all other counties in Tennessee that lack internet at speeds of 100/20 Mbps. Each middle mile grant must have a last mile component and provide new and/or improved service in unserved or underserved areas.
“Today marks another milestone for rural Tennessee as we unveil two programs that will help more Tennessee communities achieve economic growth and prosperity,” said Commissioner McWhorter. “The Last Mile and Middle Mile Grant Programs allow TNECD to provide enhanced support to some of our state’s most rural regions, and we encourage all our local partners to take part in this latest round of broadband funding.”
Grant applications will open for both programs on September 4, 2023, and close on October 16, 2023. TNECD anticipates making these grant announcements by early 2024.
Prior to the grant application window, internet service providers will have the opportunity to challenge the state’s eligibility maps to ensure that served and unserved areas are accurately represented. The challenge process will begin July 24, 2023, and close on August 11, 2023.
According to the 2020 Broadband Deployment Report published by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), one in six rural Tennesseans lacks access to broadband, and since 2018, TNECD has awarded nearly $566.6 million in broadband grants through state and federal funding to serve more than 660,000 Tennesseans across 260,000 residential locations.
To learn more about Tennessee’s broadband initiatives and review program guidelines, please visit tn.gov/broadband.
About the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s mission is to develop strategies that help make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs. To grow and strengthen Tennessee, the department seeks to attract new corporate investment to the state and works with Tennessee companies to facilitate expansion and economic growth. Find us on the web: tnecd.com. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Like us on Facebook. Subscribe to our YouTubechannel.
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