State Rep. Iris Rudder announces $18 million to expand local broadband, digital opportunities

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – State Rep. Iris Rudder, R-Winchester, announced $18 million in grant funding has been awarded to expand broadband and digital program opportunities in Franklin and Marion Counties.

The counties will receive three separate grants as part of $162.7 million in overall funding administered by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD). The investments will provide broadband access and digital opportunity programs to more than 236,000 Tennesseans across 92 counties.

“We still have many citizens across Franklin and Marion counties who do not have access to high-speed internet, which is essential these days,” Rudder said. “I’m excited to see broadband expand into our rural communities and provide more opportunities for our area.”

Local grant recipients include:

  • Ben Lomand Communications: $14.7 million to expand broadband access in parts of Franklin and one other county through the Middle Mile program
  • United Communications: $3.15 million to expand broadband access in parts of Franklin and two other counties through the Middle Mile program
  • Southeast Tennessee Development District: $198,000to advance digital skills and workforce development by serving parts of Marion and nine other counties through the Digital Skills, Education and Workforce (DSEW) program

Grantees across all programs are investing approximately $48 million in matching funds and will complete their projects by Dec. 31, 2026, according to TNECD.

The Middle Mile grant program assists with capital expenses related to broadband deployment in unserved or underserved areas of Tennessee. It is part of a broader strategy to ensure that all Tennesseans have access to high-speed internet by 2028, and have opportunities to develop digital skills, access to high-quality tech jobs, connect to broadband enabled devices and access online learning and telehealth resources.

The TNECD created four grant programs to promote broadband opportunity and high-paying digital jobs, one of those being the Digital Skills, Education and Workforce (DSEW) program. 

DSEW grant funding will offer the receiving organizations a variety of training and education programs to advance digital skills and workforce development, creating a pipeline for well-paying jobs.

In total, TNECD has invested more than $715 million to expand the state’s broadband infrastructure, connecting more than 689,000 Tennesseans across 275,000 residential and business locations.

Additional information on TNECD’s broadband initiatives can be found here.

State Rep. Iris Rudder represents District 39 which includes Franklin and Marion Counties. 

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