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USDA Partners with Communities to Bring Broadband Infrastructure to Rural Areas - Investment in Tennessee Exceeds $4.5 Million

Stephen White
Release Date

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced that USDA is investing in infrastructure projects in a dozen states to improve e-Connectivity in rural communities. Tennessee Rural Development State Director Jim Tracy is pleased to announce that both Scott County Telephone Cooperative, and Ben Lomand Communications will receive funding to expand their broadband systems, and capabilities in rural Tennessee.

   “Having fast reliable access to broadband is vital to the prosperity of Tennessee’s rural communities,” Tracy said. “USDA is working hard to ensure that rural businesses and residents have access to the same quality services available to those in urban areas.” 

   According to a 2018 report by the Federal Communications Commission, 80 percent of the 24 million American households who lack reliable, affordable, high-speed internet are in rural areas. USDA’s investments in broadband infrastructure are helping transform rural America, providing innovation and technology to increase economic competitiveness and opportunities.

   USDA is investing $91 million through the Telecommunications Programs. Including Tennessee, the 19 projects will benefit more than 27,000 businesses and households in Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia. 

   Below is a summary of investments in Tennessee:

  • The West Kentucky Rural Telephone Cooperative will use the $3,000,000 grant to construct a fiber-to-the-home broadband system providing state-of-the-art services to 554 households and 20 businesses in Scott County. A community center will also be established within the service area where residents can access computer terminals and WiFi, free of charge. This project will allow residents and businesses in this area to access high quality voice, video, and broadband services so that they may be able to better access the economic, health care, educational, and quality of life opportunities such services enable. Scott County Telephone Cooperative (SCTC), headquartered in Scott County Virginia provides advanced telecommunications services to six exchanges in southwestern Virginia as the incumbent local exchange carrier, providing service to approximately 4,900 customers.  SCTC also acts as a competitive local exchange carrier in six other areas and also provides services as a competitive local exchange carrier in several surrounding southwestern Virginia counties. It passes an additional 10,000 homes with these systems with facilities passing an additional 1,700 homes currently under construction. SCTC will be expanding its system to this new community and contributing $450,000 to help complete the project.

  • Ben Lomand Communications will use the $1,813,443 grant to construct state-of-the-art Fiber to the Premises facilities to enable high speed broadband, voice, and video in a service area remotely located at the northernmost adjoining borders of Franklin and Marion counties in Tennessee. Ben Lomand, headquartered in Warren County, is a competitive local exchange carrier for the proposed funded service area. This grant will connect 265 households to broadband and bring positive economic benefits to all by increasing educational, health care, and public safety opportunities and facilitating 21st century lifestyles within the community. A community center will also be established within the service area where residents can access computer terminals and WiFi, free of charge for at least two years. Ben Lomand will contribute $320,021 toward this project.

   In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

   To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

   USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.