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Weekend edition May 03, 2024 | Katelyn Keenehan

Major grant will expand broadband initiatives statewide

Broadband is high-speed internet access. It enables users to access and transmit data, such as text, images, and video, at significantly higher speeds.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter announced this week that the state will award $162.7 million in broadband and digital opportunity grants. Altogether, these investments aim to extend broadband access to more than 236,000 residents in 92 counties throughout the state.

“Broadband is essential to all Tennesseans, and that’s why we are making strategic investments in our state’s broadband infrastructure and digital opportunity programs to create a pathway to
education, job training, and greater opportunity statewide,” said the Governor.

This marks more than $715 million invested to ensure broadband for all Tennesseeans.  Upon completion of this grant, more than 689,000 people in the state will be connected to the broadband network-  including businesses, residential, and rural areas.

As of this announcement, a total of $97.2 million is being funded by the Last Mile and Middle Mile infrastructure programs, and $65.5 million will be invested in digital opportunity programs. These initiatives are part of a broader strategy to ensure that all residents have access to high-speed internet by 2028.

Additionally, to promote broadband opportunities and high-paying digital jobs, TNECD launched four new programs during this funding opportunity: Digital Skills, Employment and Workforce Development (DSEW), Connected Community Facilities (CCF), Broadband Ready Communities (BRC) and Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) Broadband Workforce grants.

Here are the communities receiving Middle Mile broadband funds in East Tennessee:

  • Newport Utilities -$15,192,642.36 – Serving parts of Cocke County
  • Spectrum Southeast– 291,729.98 – Serving parts of Blount County
  • Spectrum Southeast– $205,703.24 – Serving parts of Jefferson County
  • Spectrum Southeast -$163,179.11 – Serving parts of Monroe County


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