Wilson County is among the recipients of a $3.3 million grant to improve rural broadband connections, which could see infrastructure in place by spring 2021.
Service areas that will be impacted include 2,716 households, 13 businesses, 12 farms and a community facility spread over 48 square miles in rural Wilson, Rutherford, Williamson and Maury Counties.
“I think it’s going to be a good thing for our community because we depend so much on technology now, especially when it comes to education,” Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said. “We have a lot of people that want to live a rural life but still need connectivity to meet educational standards. Since Wilson County is No. 1 statewide in Century Farms and our farmers are using a lot of technology now too, this is also going to be big for them.”
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the funding on Thursday as part of a larger $9 million investment representing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ReConnect Pilot Program.
“Our core mission at USDA is to increase rural prosperity through boosting economic opportunity in rural America,” he said in a news release. “We know that rural communities need robust, modern infrastructure to thrive, and that includes having access to broadband e-connectivity.”
United Communications Inc. is the funding recipient for the $3.3 million affecting the area. Dawn Hobbs, the company’s marketing coordinator, said approximately 1,154 households, businesses and farms in and around Wilson County would be affected, including unincorporated communities in nearby Williamson County.
“The partnership of United Communications and Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation will match this $3.3 million with $3.3 million of their own money,” Hobbs said in a news release, “To help bring fiber service to many rural households with inadequate or no bandwidth.”
More specific information about the areas of Wilson County affected and its share of the $3.3 million is pending, but Hutto said the investment is an encouraging sign coming from the federal level.
“We had a grant TDS Telecom did a year or two ago where there was some advancement in Watertown, but that’s the last one we’d dealt with,” he said, noting that it was funded through a private company. “I really see this as a big plug for the community, and we’re excited to be a part of the funding representing a third of the grant.”