Due in part to a state grant, Bedford County stands to gain close to $6 million in broadband expansion dollars over the next 3 years.
Bedford County Mayor Chad Graham announced Tuesday morning that a state grant, totaling more than $6 million, has been received to expand broadband services in Bedford County.
“Whether it’s applying for a job, completing school assignments, working from home due to illness or tracking personal finances, high-speed Internet access has become an essential utility, much like power or water,” said Graham. “Since taking office, I’ve been working with County Commissioners, utilities, and the state to explore ways that we can get service to areas of the county where it’s still not available or affordable. I am delighted that this state grant will help us make significant progress towards that goal.”
Bedford County Board of Commissioners recently agreed to fund 15 percent of the project cost, not to exceed $700,000, and United Communications will match that amount.
United, which is working with Duck River Electric Membership Corp. on its rural broadband projects in Bedford County, stated that the state grant will significantly increase the scope of its ongoing projects in the county. The grant will allow it to offer broadband Internet service to 942 eligible locations.
The grant-funded project will take up to 3 years to complete, including engineering, permitting, construction, testing, and connecting the service to homes and businesses.
For any utility, rural areas are a challenge – the fewer homes there are per mile of road, the harder it becomes to justify the cost of installing expensive service lines. In much of the area covered by this grant, there are fewer than 10 residents per mile of line. The assistance which the state grant will provide helps to overcome that challenge and make it possible for the lines to be run.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Graham. “I want to thank Gov. Lee and Commissioner [Stuart] McWhorter for this state grant. I’d also like to thank all of the County Commissioners for their support, and particularly Commissioner Greg Vick for his hard work on this issue. I’d also like to thank Tennessee Speaker Pro Tem Pat Marsh and State Sen. Shane Reeves for being there for us whenever we’re involved in any state project.”
Graham added, “And, of course, I want to thank both United Communications and Duck River Electric for their hard work on all of this. Duck River Electric is based here in Shelbyville, and United Communications is right in our backyard, and I think their concern for our community is evident.”
Response from United
“United is ready to get to work in Bedford County to expand rural access to fast, affordable and reliable internet service,” said William Bradford, President and CEO of United Communications. “These grants present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest inTennessee’s broadband infrastructure, and I’m grateful to the Bedford County Board of Commissioners, Mayor Chad Graham, and all our local partners for helping make it possible.”
United CFO Kristin Jackson said the state grants would add to United's already ambitious plans to fund proposed projects through a recently secured $130 million credit facility withCoBank,one of the nation’s largest providers of financing to rural digital infrastructure and agribusiness operators.
“United’s robust financial and operational partnerships underscore our intention to fully connect Middle Tennessee with a reliable and affordable broadband network,” Jackson said.“We’re ready and waiting to break ground and help bridge the digital divide in our rural communities.”
With two office locations, Chapel Hill and Franklin, United is building upon an existing network of over 1,700 route miles of fiber backbone in Middle Tennessee to supply high-speed internet,the latest Wi-Fi technology, and both digital TV and phone service for residential customers and businesses across the region.More information about Project
UNITE can be found on the United Communications website.
United partnered with Duck River Electric to apply for the grant funding through Project UNITE, United’s initiative to expand broadband access to every home and business in middle Tennessee. Duck River Electric President and CEO Scott Spence praised the team effort to serve Bedford County.
“The Duck River Electric team is thrilled to be part of this success for the Bedford County community,” said Spence. “Access to broadband has been out of reach for our most rural communities for far too long. We are excited to see what Project UNITE will be able to accomplish in Bedford County with this funding.”
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