Citizens of the Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee and Southern Kentucky have reason to celebrate. With the award of a $1,771,035 Community-Oriented Connectivity Broadband Grant from USDA Rural Development they will soon have access to modern electronic and technological services that most of us take for granted.
USDA Rural Utilities Service Acting Administrator Jasper Schneider, TN State Director Bobby Goode, and KY State Director Thomas Fern today joined North Central Telephone Cooperative (NCTC) CEO Nancy White to announce the grant at a groundbreaking ceremony in Scottsville, KY.
“The Department of Agriculture’s Community Connect Program funds broadband in rural areas that do not have service, improving educational opportunities, expanding access to specialty health care and opening the door to a wealth of business and social services. We hope those who live and work in the Upper Cumberland region will soon be able to take advantage of all that broadband service can offer,” said Schneider.
NCTC will use Rural Development funds to replace all plant facilities. The 40 year old air-core copper network will be replaced with new Outside Plant (OSP) fiber optic cable, Central Office Equipment (COE) and Customer Premise Equipment (CPE). The plant will be upgraded using an Active Ethernet (AE), Fiber to the Premise (FTTP) architecture, widely accepted as the most technologically “future-proof” facility configuration available. Upon completion, service area residents will have access to internet speeds ranging from 5 Megabits per second (Mbps) to a full 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps).
This is welcome news to residents of Macon County, TN and Allen County, KY. Suffering from declining population and persistent poverty that many believe is due to the lack of services in the area with many having no cell or internet service at all. In January 2014, USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity was expanded to include these counties in Tennessee and Kentucky, and today’s event celebrates the StrikeForce strategy of partnering public resources with local expertise to help grow rural economies and create jobs in persistent poverty communities.
USDA Rural Development invests in jobs, infrastructure, community development, health, education, homeownership and affordable rental housing to improve the lives of people in rural areas and the economic health of rural communities. During the last four years the agency has assisted more than 1.5 million Tennessee families and businesses in 158 communities, investing more than $3.7 billion into local economies through affordable loans, loan guarantees and grants.
For more information on USDA Rural Development programs available in the Upper Cumberland region, contact the Cookeville Area Office at (931) 528-6539, or (800) 342-3149 x1493, or visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/TN.