From staff reports

Tri-County Electric has been selected as one of the recipients of the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund (TEBF), approved by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

TEBF was authorized by Gov. Bill Lee to receive $330,000 as part of Tennessee’s Coronavirus Relief Fund, to provide broadband deployment.

“The COVID pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives, including the way Trousdale County students are learning this year. We know that virtual learning can be challenging and not having the Internet makes it nearly impossible,” said Paul Thompson, Executive V.P. and General Manager of Tri-County. “Once we were made aware of this grant opportunity, we worked with Dr. (Clint) Satterfield and his team to identify how we might be able to assist students.”

Tri-County Electric’s TEBF grant includes installation and free 50/50 Mbps service for 12 months, that will impact approximately 130 students in addition to five public Wi-Fi hotspots. Tri-County Electric was prohibited from submitting addresses where services are currently provided and was challenged by Comcast from offering service where Comcast is available. Due to state law, Tri-County Electric cannot offer internet outside of our electric service area or within the ILEC service territory of a rural telephone cooperative, so students across the river, in Cato and parts of the Willard & Templow communities were ineligible to be included in the grant application.

Tri-County Director of External Relations & HR Tammy Dixon said the five WiFi hotspots would be located at Hartsville City Park near the Little League field, the football field, high school baseball/softball fields, courthouse area and the Tri-County office on Broadway.

“We have partnered with Tri-County Electric on previous projects and are thankful they realized the challenges we are facing this school year and worked on finding a solution” said Dr. Clint Satterfield, Trousdale County’s Director of Schools. “This grant is going to have a positive impact on our students and their ability to have a successful school year.”

The locations eligible for the grant will be notified by letter and door hangers. The grant will not affect Tri-County’s current build-out in Trousdale County.

Gov. Bill Lee and the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group announced Friday that $61 million would be awarded in Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund grants to improve access to broadband Internet across the state.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has only further elevated the importance of access to reliable, affordable broadband internet to facilitate telemedicine, distance learning, and telecommuting,” said Gov. Lee in a press statement. “I thank the members of our Financial Stimulus Accountability Group and the Department of Economic and Community Development for their work in distributing these funds to shovel-ready projects that will directly benefit Tennesseans.”

“This is terrific news,” added Sen. Ferrell Haile in a press statement. “We have been working very hard to expand services in our rural communities and this grant is a huge help to get more homes and businesses connected.

“Broadband is becoming increasingly important to the way students are educated, medical services are provided, government services are delivered, and business is conducted. The pandemic has further illustrated the urgent need for expansion of services.”

Pursuant to federal guidelines, these projects are limited to those that would enhance access to individuals and families affected during the COVID-19 pandemic by the lack of broadband access in their area. Eligible entities included those authorized to provide broadband services in Tennessee, and eligible areas were limited to those unserved or underserved locations lacking all equipment necessary to provide a broadband connection capable of supporting telemedicine, distance learning, and telecommuting.

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