State now accepting applications for new state Broadband Accessibility Grant program

State now accepting applications for new state Broadband Accessibility Grant program

September 7th, 2017 by Staff Report in Breaking News

NASHVILLE - Tennessee Economic and Community Development officials are now accepting applications for the state's new Broadband Accessibility Grant program.

Deadline for submissions is Nov. 17.

The grant program was established under the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act passed earlier this year at Gov. Bill Haslam's behest.

The program seeks to spread broadband access to more rural areas in Tennessee. With $10 million available in the first round of grants, the program also promotes practices that increase deployment and encourage adoption. 

Grants are intended to help offset the capital expenses of deploying broadband in currently unserved areas. Projects must serve locations without access to download speeds of at least ten megabits per second (10 Mbps) and upload speeds of at least one megabit per second (1 Mbps).

Preference will be given to areas that are unlikely to receive broadband service without grant funding.  Applicants must be authorized to provide retail broadband in the proposed service area.

Haslam pushed the legislation after a decade of unsuccessful efforts by municipal electric systems, including Chattanooga's Electic Power Board, to persuade state lawmakers to change current laws and allow them to extend their lightening-quick internet service to underserved rural areas.

"Rural economic development is a top priority for TNECD and reliable broadband is a lynchpin of our efforts to encourage job growth in Tennessee's rural communities," TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe said in a news release. 

Critics have questioned how much of a dent that Haslam's grant program will make in the overall rural internet-access problem. He pushed the program after years of unsuccessful efforts by the Chattanooga-based Electric Power Board and other municipal electric power systems failed to move in the General Assembly amid fierce opposition from AT&T, other telecoms and cable providers, including Comcast.

Rolfe noted about one in every three residents in rural Tennessee don't have broadband access at recognized minimum standards. 

"It is critical that we address this gap and ensure all Tennesseans have reliable internet access," Rolfe said. "Thanks to Governor Haslam's leadership and the overwhelming support of the Tennessee General Assembly, TNECD will now be able to provide grants to help make broadband available to residents and businesses that currently go without it."

The Broadband Accessibility Grants are meant to help offset the capital expenses of deploying broadband in currently unserved areas. Projects must serve locations without access to download speeds of at least ten megabits per second (10 Mbps) and upload speeds of at least one megabit per second (1 Mbps). 

Preference will be given to areas that are unlikely to receive broadband service without grant funding.  Applicants must be authorized to provide retail broadband in the proposed service area.

Following the close of the application period, TNECD will hold a three-week online public comment period to receive additional input and information regarding submitted applications.

TNECD anticipates announcing grantees in January 2018 with projects underway in early in 2018.


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