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June 30, 2021 | Tom Ballard

EPB, community partners win national award for HCS EdConnect initiative

It’s significant when a national organization recognizes collaboration in a community to address a major issue, and that was certainly the case when the American Public Power Association (APPA) presented its “Sue Kelly Community Service Award” to collaborators in Chattanooga in a ceremony earlier this month.

The award recognizes “good neighbor” activities that demonstrate the commitment of a utility, in this case EPB, and its employees to their community, and the recognition was for the work of a number of different groups focused on the HCS EdConnect initiative. Officially launched in July 2020, the effort was designed to address a rising crisis in the community – the need for at-home learners to have access to high-speed internet regardless of their financial position.

Just 10 days ago, we posted this article in commemorating the fact that more than 14,000 students have been connected at no charge and together with their household members, they represent more than 25,000 people who now have internet access through HCS EdConnect.

Yesterday, EPB issued this news release (EPB_APPA award) where it noted that “funding partners have provided $7.9 million to cover upfront infrastructure costs including additional equipment, fiber optic drops and wireless routers. HCS EdConnect partners include Hamilton County, City of Chattanooga, Hamilton County Schools, The Enterprise Center, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Benwood Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, Footprint Foundation, Lyndhurst Foundation, Maclellan Foundation and CARES funding from the State of Tennessee.”

In a touch of irony, we could not help but take note of the fact that the news release from EPB announcing the award came the day after the Knoxville City Council approved the plan by the Knoxville Utilities Board to deploy broadband networking similar to what EPB began deploying more than a decade ago.

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