State Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, recently announced more than $2 million has been awarded in emergency broadband grants for Bledsoe and Rhea counties. The funds were made available through the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund allotment from the federal government.
The counties will receive four grants as part of $61 million in emergency broadband package for 62 projects announced by Gov. Bill Lee last week and distributed by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD) to improve access to broadband internet across the state.
Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative will receive the $1.974,000 to expand service to 685 homes and 20 non-residential sites. Spring City Cable received three grants totaling $139,375 to provide broadband access to 124 homes and three non-residential sites throughout Rhea County.
“These grants will make an enormous difference in the lives of our residents who are completely underserved and desperately need broadband access to work, do classwork online or access telehealth services during this pandemic,” Travis said. “I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities these grants will provide for our neighbors, but also for the economic growth it will help create in our region.”
The ECD received 84 applications for $89.1 million in funding, according to Lee’s office. Following review and a public comment period, 62 projects representing $61 million will be funded. The remaining $28 million in projects were denied due to a number of factors including project feasibility, applicant experience, and public comments received from existing broadband providers. Unfunded applicants will be invited to reapply for the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Grant Program, funded at $15 million this year.
Pursuant to federal guidelines, these projects are limited to those that would enhance access to individuals and families affected during the COVID-19 pandemic by the lack of broadband access in their area. Eligible entities included those authorized to provide broadband services in Tennessee, and eligible areas were limited to those unserved or underserved locations lacking all equipment necessary to provide a broadband connection capable of supporting telemedicine, distance learning, and telecommuting.