Claiborne one of 4 chosen for broadband program

Published 10:36 am Thursday, June 15, 2023

Claiborne is one of four counties chosen from across the state to participate in the Tennessee Broadband Accelerate Program. Two of the other three counties – Monroe and Roane – are located along with Claiborne in the eastern portion of the state. Bedford County, the fourth chosen for the pilot program, is situated in middle Tennessee.

The 16-week program teaches representative teams from each county how to leverage for new funding that will pay for access to expanded broadband services. More than 30 hours of no-cost expert counsel offers such vitals as how to structure engagement for setting broadband goals, understanding funding options and targeting capital dollars that will support implementation.

The Program is being facilitated via a cooperative effort between Heartland Forward, the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development and the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society and is made financially possible through Heartland Forward and its ‘Connecting the Heartland Initiative.’

The program is anticipated to run through July 2023.

The inaugural cohort met in Nashville for its initial orientation on April 26. The individual county teams will continue meeting on a weekly basis until the end of the program. The classes include weekly, topical two-hour meetings which allow representatives from the four counties to come together as a group. The teams will identify broadband goals and gather community information while analyzing the opportunities that are available. The group will concentrate on targeting capital dollars for infrastructure as they better understand the various funding options.

County Mayor Joe Brooks spoke about his participation in the program.

“Claiborne County is looking forward to getting data that will assist in its efforts to secure funding to help close the gaps in broadband coverage across the county and learn more about opportunities that are already available to residential customers.”

Angie Cooper, Executive Vice-President of Heartland Forward, says it’s crucial that Tennesseans have access to reliable, high-speed internet to fully participate in work, education and healthcare.

“But too many families across the state are still lacking the connection they need. We are proud to partner with TNECD and the Benton Institute to work on the ground with Tennessee counties to find community-led solutions for expanding high-speed internet access. We hope these leaders leave the program with renewed enthusiasm and a concrete plan for getting their citizens fully connected.”

Taylor Beaty, Director of Broadband Programs with the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development, commented as well.

“We are excited to provide Tennessee counties with an opportunity to come together and create broadband plans tailored to the unique needs of their communities. TNECD is looking forward to working with participants to help ensure all Tennesseans have access to broadband and connectivity resources.”

Adrianne Furniss, Executive Director of the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, spoke about the expansion.

“We are thrilled to bring the Accelerate Program to Tennessee and look forward to positioning the four enterprising communities in their efforts to bring reliable, affordable high-speed internet to their counties to accomplish broader community goals.”

Thanks to federal infrastructure dollars and opportunities being made available by the state, counties across Tennessee are in the short rows for receiving substantial funding for the enhancement of broadband infrastructure. Those spearheading the Tennessee Accelerate Program say the initiative is helping to level the playing field. More counties and cities can learn how to best submit applications for capital dollars that will go a long way toward transforming broadband services within their communities – regardless of the size or staffing of the individual entities.