Expands Fiber in Unserved Cumberland & Coffee Counties
McMinnville, Tenn., – Governor Bill Lee and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart McWhorter announced Ben Lomand as the recipient of nearly $24 million comprised of two broadband grants for unserved areas of Cumberland and Coffee Counties. The grants are part of the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund – American Rescue Plan (TEBF-ARP). Ben Lomand will be matching with a thirty percent contribution.
The funds allow builds that bring fiber-to-the-home to businesses and residents, enabling access to synchronous gigabit service. This will be available to approximately 7,000 households and businesses in Cumberland County and over 100 in Coffee County, allowing for substantial growth in education, employment, and community support services such as telehealth and law enforcement.
Greg Smartt, Ben Lomand Connect General Manager/CEO, comments, “We are overjoyed and blessed to have received these important grants. This will have an immeasurable impact on the households and businesses in both Cumberland and Coffee counties. We are proud to serve these vital bookends of our service area. It’s impossible to talk about the early history of Ben Lomand Connect (Ben Lomand Rural Telephone Cooperative) without mentioning Coffee County. The Beech Grove and Hillsboro areas are part of our company’s cornerstone. We look forward to building on top of that legacy through our Manchester office, which opened in 2021. The Cumberland County grant greatly expands our Ben Lomand Fiber footprint within a county where we have fostered a close to two decades-long relationship. And just like our fiber footprint, we continue to grow our staff and support personnel to handle the communication needs of one of the largest-sized counties in the state. From online learning, telemedicine, and the growing work-from-home sector, we can’t wait to see what the fruits of synchronous Gig fiber are to these residents.”
Cumberland County Mayor Allen Foster, whose county was awarded $22,490,360.00, commented, “This is an extremely exciting announcement. Four years ago, when I took office, I promised the people of Cumberland County that I would do all I could to improve broadband access. Ben Lomand has proven to be a trusted partner and provider that took an interest in working together to help solve our broadband issues. This grant will go a long way toward doing just that! The years of hard work are finally paying off for the citizens of Cumberland County!” Additional dollars for Cumberland County will be contributed from the county’s ARP (American Rescue Plan) funds that were distributed to counties and can be used for broadband investments.
Mayor Judd Matheny of Coffee County stated, “Ben Lomand and I have had a great working relationship for 20+ years. I am very proud of their service record, products, and customer service. Coffee County is in good hands with Ben Lomand, and this award underscores that.” Coffee County garnered $1,422,272 in grant dollars, and when combined with the ARP funding from the county, the fiber footprint will cover over 3,000 homes.
TNECD received 218 applications, and Cumberland County is the largest single grant award. Ben Lomand received the second largest award for telecommunication companies in total grant dollars awarded. The grant recipients were chosen through rigorous criteria, including the grant area’s need, the ability to complete the project, and strong community support.
This round of grants awarded $446 million to 58 counties that will expand service to support more than 150,000 unserved homes according to the new threshold set at anything less than 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.