By Jill Penley

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced $14.8 million in broadband accessibility grants that will expand broadband service to more than 8,300 households and businesses in 17 counties across Tennessee.
“I am pleased to announce that we are getting our rural areas up to speed and expanding broadband in the areas that need it most,” said Lee. “I am committed to ensuring connectivity in every corner of our state as broadband impacts our goals for health care, education, economic development and beyond.”
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines broadband as data transmission technologies that are always on and capable of simultaneously transporting multiple signals and traffic types between the Internet and end users. In January 2015, the FCC upgraded the definition of broadband speeds for downloading content from 4 Mbps (Megabytes per second) to 25 Mbps and for uploading content from the previous rate of 1 Mbps to a new standard of 3 Mbps. The FCC notes that with the revised standard, 13.1 percent of American households do not have access to broadband.
According to the FCC’s 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, nearly 25
percent, or one in four rural Tennesseans lack access to broadband. In addition to the $20 million included in Gov. Lee’s recommended budget for the fiscal year 2020, these grants will continue to close the access gap ensuring rural Tennesseans have the tools needed for growth and prosperity.
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) is working with the 13 grantees who demonstrated a high need for grant funding. Recipients also demonstrated the ability to implement and sustain the project long-term with strong community support.
“Broadband is critical to the sustained economic success of a community,” said TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe. “By expanding broadband accessibility, we are extending the runway of possibilities for new industry and development right here in Tennessee.”
Grantees will provide
$20 million in matching funds for a combined investment of nearly $35 million across the state for the second year of funding. Infrastructure should be built
out within two years of receiving the grant funds. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire,
satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. An independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress, the commission is the United States’ primary authority for communications law, regulation, and technological innovation
The Broadband Accessibility Grant Program is
designed to
offset the capital expenses
in the deployment of broadband in unserved areas. While the program’s goal is to facilitate broadb
and access to all Tennesseans, funds are generally targeted to areas that are unlikely to receive broadband service without grant funding.
The average download speed in Mountain City is 55.76 Mbps, which is 32 percent faster than the average in Tennessee and 23 percent faster than the national average. While there are eight internet providers in Mountain City, only five of those offer residential service. According to the FFC, Tennessee is the 25th most connected state in the U.S.