On September 7, 2017, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) announced that it is now accepting Broadband Accessibility Grant applications until November 17, 2017.
Established by the recently enacted Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act (TBAA), this program aims to spread broadband access to more Tennesseans while promoting practices that increase deployment and encourage adoption. In total, $10 million is available in the first round of grants with plans to provide up to a total of $30 million over a 3-year period if State funding is approved by the State Legislature for rounds two and three.
“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. “About one-in-three residents in rural Tennessee do not have broadband access at recognized minimum standards. It is critical that we address this gap and ensure all Tennesseans have reliable internet access. 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.
More information on Broadband Accessibility Grants and TNECD’s broadband initiatives can be found here.
While the State’s grant opportunity for service providers is good, many service providers are reluctant to spend money to finish building out a county like Carter County especially given the difficulty of installing the infrastructure in our mountainous area. The Broadband infrastructure to provide the service requires building towers in a specific service area in the county and laying fiber to that tower. The signal coming from the new tower can be blocked by trees and can have difficulty being reached in the mountain areas with all our peaks and valleys.
Before the service providers who are authorized to provide service in our County will make a considerable investment to expand or completely build out their infrastructure to provide service to all areas, they need to know how many potential customers would be willing to pay for the initial service activation and a monthly fee. Service activation costs vary between providers as do monthly fees. Many providers conduct “heat map” studies to determine potential customer interests and potential customer saturation areas.
Carter County has been asked by several providers to help them with a heat map study by polling our citizens to see who doesn’t currently have access but who would be interested in purchasing the service if offered. Therefore, we are reaching out to you to ask you to please contact us to let us know of your interest in signing up for Broadband service (if it is not currently available in your area) by sending an email to email@example.com or contacting us by phone at 423-542-1801 to let us know that you are interested so we can add your name to the list. We need your name, phone number and address and that service is not currently offered in your area. The service providers will not build out the infrastructure that could cost them millions for only a few subscribers. They require at least 200 to 500 subscribers for every tower they build.
In addition to collecting this information from you, my office is also working with the Election and Planning offices to determine the population of the currently unserved areas of the County and will possibly be working with a Broadband Consultant to do a coverage and feasibility study for the County.
For the latest updates and breaking news announcements from my office, please see the County Home Page Latest News section on the internet at www.cartercountytn.gov . Great things are happening in Carter County.
Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 423-542-1801 if you have any questions or if I can be of assistance to you. My office is located at 801 East Elk Avenue, Suite 201 located in the County Courthouse in Elizabethton. I have an open-door policy and everyone is always welcome.
Director of Economic and Community Development
Carter County Mayor’s Office