DTC Communications is using federal grant funding to expand fiber optic broadband into areas of Middle Tennessee that currently do not have access to reliable Internet service.
The Alexandria-based telecommunications cooperative received about $3.2 million to expand fiber broadband into parts of Smith, Wilson and Trousdale counties. About $2.2 million comes from a U.S. Department of Agriculture ReConnect grant, and the remainder comes from a Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development grant, which was made available through the CARES Act.
Funding from these grants will cover about 75% of the total project cost. DTC will cover the rest.
The grants will deploy about 127 miles of new fiber in areas that currently do not have broadband access. The new networks will serve about 670 homes and businesses in this area.
DTC is also adding at its own expense roughly 400 locations to areas adjacent to the grant areas.
The grants allow DTC up to two years to complete the projects, but DTC CEO Chris Townson said they hope to have the project completed by the end of 2021.
“These residents do not have access to fast, reliable Internet, but under our board of directors’ leadership, DTC employees are working hard to change that,” he said. “Fiber broadband is the fastest, most advanced Internet available, and we are bringing it to unserved and underserved portions of Tennessee.”
In Trousdale County, residents and businesses will also be greatly impacted by the project. Townson said the DTC buildout would cover most of the portion of Trousdale County south of the Cumberland River.
“It’s going to provide Internet service to those people who previously didn’t have an option,” said County Mayor Stephen Chambers. “I’d like to thank DTC for extending service to that area in Trousdale County and thank the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and USDA for putting the grant forward.”
State Senator Ferrell Haile, whose District 18 includes a portion of this project area, praised the USDA, TECD, and the leadership of DTC Communications for bringing broadband to these rural communities.
“The pandemic has taught us that, if you’re confined to home trying to stay safe, you must have broadband access for education and business,” Haile said. “Without broadband, you’re isolated from so many opportunities. This fiber project will bring critical connectivity to the people in these counties who need it to function in today’s world, and I appreciate the team effort of everyone involved to make this project happen.”
Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, who represents a portion of the project area in House District 40, agrees.
“Broadband is a vital, must-have utility, just like water and electricity,” she said. “I am thrilled at the progress being made to connect rural Tennessee homes and businesses to a strong broadband infrastructure. We will stay the course until everyone in our state is connected.”
Studies show that access to broadband is one of the key factors businesses consider when deciding whether to locate in a specific area. It is also proven to increase property values by as much as $5,400.