Charter Communications, Comcast, TDS Telecom and AT&T all scored grants from the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund, but electric cooperatives and utilities came away with nearly half of the $447 million awarded this week.
The state dished out $446.8 million to 36 grantees to help cover more than 150,000 unserved homes and businesses across 58 counties. The funding was just a fraction of the $1.2 billion in requested support it received via 218 project applications submitted during its solicitation for the program.
“People are moving to Tennessee from across the nation in record numbers, and we have an obligation to prepare our state for continued growth,” Governor Bill Lee said in a statement. “Our strategic investments in broadband infrastructure will ensure our rural communities are connected and have every opportunity to thrive.”
United Telephone Company came away the biggest winner, scoring $53.4 million to serve parts of Bedford, Giles, Lincoln, Moore, Maury and Williamson counties. But it was a utility – not an incumbent ISP – which snagged the second largest award: Lexington Electric System was handed $27.5 million to connect parts of Henderson, Decatur, Benton, Carroll and Hardin counties.
All told, more than a dozen cooperatives and utilities collectively bagged $204.4 million of the funding awarded. Lexington Electric’s grant aside, other notable awards included those granted to Bolivar Energy Authority ($20.2 million), Pulaski Electric System ($23.2 million) and Tennessee Valley Electric Cooperative ($21.8 million). The prominence of such entities in Tennessee's broadband program is notable given it reflects the broader rise of electric co-ops and utilities in the broadband market. In February, Fiber Broadband Association CEO Gary Bolton told Fierce such companies are the fastest growing cohort of ISPs in the country.
Cable company Charter Communications also won a hefty sum, scoring $20.4 million to reach parts of six counties. TDS Telecom, which operates as Tellico Telephone Company in the area, came away with nearly $13 million to serve parts of Monroe County and Comcast grabbed $2.2 million to connect parts of three counties. AT&T was given just under half a million dollars to extend service in parts of Dickson County.
Fierce has been tracking state grant wins this year among major operators including Charter, Comcast, Windstream and Frontier. But analysts at MoffettNathanson provided an updated 2022 tally for the former two companies last week, noting Charter had received $188 million thus far this year to Comcast’s $121 million. Adding in the grants from Tennessee, Charter has won $208.4 million and Comcast $123.2 million.
Award winners in Tennessee are set to provide around $331 million in matching funds. They will have three years to complete their projects.
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