Tennessee’s Broadband Initiatives Featured in New Pew Broadband Report

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Thursday, February 27, 2020 | 10:00am

  • ‘How States are Expanding Broadband Access’ highlights nine states

  • The Pew Charitable Trusts report includes best practices from across the U.S. 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee’s broadband initiatives are highlighted in a new report released today by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The report, ‘How States are Expanding Broadband Access,’ features best practices from nine states that are developing leading broadband programs to address critical connectivity gaps in their communities.

 

Tennessee’s best practices include the Department of Economic and Community Development’s broadband accessibility grant program; the broadband adoption program, a partnership with the Tennessee State Library and Archives to fund digital literacy instruction; and the change in legislation that permits electric cooperatives to provide retail broadband.

“Tennessee continues to pave the way in broadband accessibility with our initiatives. TNECD is focused on making sure all residents, rural and urban, have access to broadband,” TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe said. “High-speed internet access is critical for the future prosperity and health of our communities. We are honored to be included in Pew’s report, and we will continue to work to make sure that Tennesseans have the connectivity they need in an increasingly digital world.”

Since 2018, TNECD has awarded more than $25 million in broadband accessibility grants to support projects within 30 Tennessee counties. The department anticipates announcing nearly $20 million worth of additional broadband grants this spring.

TNECD also collaborates with its federal partners to ensure Tennesseans receive every opportunity for broadband access. The Appalachian Regional Commission has awarded $11.8 million in the last four years for broadband projects in Tennessee, the second-highest total in the 13-state ARC region. USDA has funded more than $50 million in Community Connect and ReConnect grant and loan programs in Tennessee.

Tennessee currently has 54 Broadband Ready Communities, a designation earned by political subdivisions for streamlining the local administrative processes that impact broadband deployment.

“We’re thrilled that a nationally-recognized organization like Pew has focused research efforts exploring broadband’s impact and that Pew has held Tennessee up as a state making strides on this important issue,” TNECD Broadband Director Crystal Ivey said. “We work closely every day with broadband providers to discuss ways we can make progress. There are still communities in Tennessee that are not adequately connected, and we will continue working for them until all Tennesseans, no matter where they live, have access to this critical infrastructure.”