The Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart McWhorter announced Monday that the state will award United Communications with six grants totaling $53.4 million to invest in rural broadband infrastructure through the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund (TEBF-ARP), including $14 million for projects in Williamson County.
Through the state grant process, United will invest an additional $3.3 million toward the fiber expansion effort. Williamson County leaders previously committed local funds toward the grant projects on behalf of residents and businesses lacking access to broadband service.
United partnered with Middle Tennessee 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.
Middle Tennessee Electric President and CEO Chris Jones is excited about the fiber expansion.
“Helping these unserved people acquire access to high-speed internet, something many of us take for granted, will truly change the way they work and learn and improve their quality of life,” said Jones.
“Williamson County is excited to receive the news that United Communications and MTE have received economic and community development grant funds from the State of Tennessee,” said Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson. “Together with the funds provided by the Williamson County Board of Commissioners through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), great strides can now be taken to provide broadband accessibility to the rural areas of our county. This project is a great example of government and the private sector working together for the betterment of our Williamson County citizens.”
“United is ready to get to work to provide more Williamson County residents and business owners with 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 in Tennessee’s broadband infrastructure, and I’m grateful to the Williamson County Board of Commissioners, Mayor Rogers Anderson, 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 with CoBank, 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 United’s website.