Expands Fiber to 1,147 Locations in 3 Counties
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced Ben Lomand Connect’s subsidiaries, Ben Lomand Communications and Volunteer First Services, as recipients of over $2.1 million in grants for underserved areas of Cumberland, Coffee, and Warren counties. These are matching grants, with Ben Lomand contributing an additional $2.1 million for a total investment of over $4.2 million in all three counties
One grant area is located in northwestern Cumberland County and includes 1,125 locations (1,042 residences and 83 businesses). It borders and expands upon the TNECD grant area that Volunteer First Services won funding for last year in Round 3 of the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Grant Program. The second grant area is in northeastern Coffee County and southwestern Warren County and includes 22 locations (12 residences and 10 businesses). It runs along State Highway 55 from Morrison into Coffee County. Funding will be available in April of 2021, and infrastructure will be built with projected completions of both areas in 2023.
Greg Smartt, General Manager and CEO for Ben Lomand Connect, commented, “Ben Lomand Connect is honored to receive these grant awards. It is the fifth grant we have received for Cumberland County and the fourth for Coffee County. This speaks to the tremendous need for high-speed connections in these areas and throughout the state. These grants will fill a large gap where fiber service is not available. Access to high-speed broadband will provide economic, healthcare, public safety, and educational opportunities that residents currently do not have access to and contribute to a better quality of life. ”
A total of $14.9 million in broadband accessibility grants were awarded in 15 rural counties that will expand service to support 17,800 unserved Tennesseans in nearly 7,120 households and businesses. The 15 grant recipients, including Ben Lomand Connect, demonstrated a high need for grant funding as well as the ability to implement and sustain the projects in the long-term with strong community support. “As many of us have transitioned to a lifestyle of working, telecommuting, and learning from home, we have seen how much we rely on broadband, and those who do not have access are placed at a significant disadvantage,” Commissioner Bob Rolfe said. “With the support of Governor Lee and the General Assembly, we will be able to connect more than 7,000 previously unserved homes and businesses to broadband service, positioning rural Tennessee for future success.”