The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development announced a series of grants totaling $53.4 million meant to boost rural broadband internet infrastructure, including $14 million for projects in Williamson County.
According to a TDECD news release, the grants will provide broadband access to more than 150,000 homes and businesses across 58 counties. This was made possible through the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund – American Rescue Plan (TEBF-ARP), which "utilizes a portion of the state’s federal American Rescue Plan funds to address the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and work toward a strong recovery."
Among the companies who will receive funding is United Communications, formerly known as United Telephone Company, who serves parts of Williamson, Maury, Bedford, Giles, Lincoln and Moore counties.
United Communications said in a separate news release that they will invest an additional $3.3 million towards expanding fiber optic infrastructure.
"United partnered with Middle Tennessee Electric to apply for the grant funding through Project UNITE, United’s initiative to expand broadband access to every home and business in Middle Tennessee," a United Communications news release reads.
“Helping these unserved people acquire access to high-speed internet, something many of us take for granted, will truly change the way they work and learn and improve their quality of life,” Middle Tennessee Electric President and CEO Chris Jones said. “Williamson County is excited to receive the news that United Communications and MTE have received economic and community development grant funds from the State of Tennessee."
“Together with the funds provided by the Williamson County Board of Commissioners through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), great strides can now be taken to provide broadband accessibility to the rural areas of our county," Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson added. "This project is a great example of government and the private sector working together for the betterment of our Williamson County citizens.”
A map of the planned broadband coverage area in Williamson County and Middle Tennessee can be found here.
“United is ready to get to work to provide more Williamson County residents and business owners with fast, affordable, and reliable internet service,” United Communications President and CEO William Bradford said. “These grants present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in Tennessee’s broadband infrastructure, and I’m grateful to the Williamson County Board of Commissioners, Mayor Rogers Anderson, and all our local partners for helping make it possible.”