DTC being awarded $15.6 Million in Broadband Infrastructure Grant Funding

September 20, 2022
By: Dwayne Page

DeKalb Telephone Cooperative (dba) DTC Communications Receives Over $15.6 Million Grant To Expand Internet Access Serving Portions Of DeKalb And Cannon Counties. The grand total is $15,627,524.71

The award was part of an announcement made last week by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) Commissioner Stuart McWhorter that the state would provide $446,770,282 in grants for will fund the expansion of Internet access throughout the state of Tennessee.

Overall, the broadband infrastructure grants will provide broadband access to more than 150,000 unserviced homes and businesses in 58 counties.

“People are moving to Tennessee in record numbers from across the country, and we have an obligation to prepare our state for continued growth,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “Our strategic investments in broadband infrastructure will ensure our rural communities are connected and have every opportunity to thrive, and I thank the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group for effectively managing dollars serving Tennessee residents.”
According to the 2020 Broadband Deployment Report published by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), one in six residents of Tennessee does not have access to broadband. Since 2018, TNECD has awarded nearly $120 million in broadband grants through state and federal funds to serve more than 140,000 Tennessee homes.

“To achieve economic growth and prosperity, it is imperative that Tennessee communities have the right infrastructure,” McWhorter said. “The $447 million in funding awarded will bring broadband access to 36 grantees across 75 projects in 58 Tennessee counties, and we look forward to seeing these grants fuel continued success in each community.”

The US Treasury Department previously defined “unserviced areas” as not having access to a wireless connection with a minimum speed of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload. However, due to the increasing demands of the digital age, any connection that offers a download speed of less than 100 Mbit/s and an upload speed of 20 Mbit/s is now considered “unserved”. With this new definition in mind, applications with the lowest Internet speeds were still given priority, but all applications under this new definition of “unserved” were considered.

Funding for these grants is provided by the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund – American Rescue Plan (TEBF-ARP), which is using a portion of the state’s American Rescue Plan funding to help manage the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and look forward to a strong recovery to work towards . Tennessee’s Fiscal Stimulus Accountability Group (FSAG) committed $500 million in broadband funding from this program, with more than $446 million going into infrastructure and nearly $50 million toward broadband adoption and digital literacy efforts flowed.

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“Our world is increasingly networked. In order for Tennessees to thrive in this connected world, broadband Internet must be accessible,” said Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally (R – Oak Ridge). “These grants will significantly expand our broadband footprint in Tennessee and give our citizens the tools to access information, educate themselves and do business like never before. I am grateful to Governor Lee and Commissioner McWhorter, as well as Commissioner Eley and my fellow lawmakers at the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group, for channeling these dollars for the benefit of our citizens and our state.”

“Tennessee has seen significant growth in every region of our state over the past decade. This significant investment in our broadband infrastructure will enable more citizens to access high-speed broadband at work, at home and at school,” said spokesman Cameron Sexton (R – Crossville). “I appreciate Governor Lee, Lieutenant Governor McNally, Commissioner McWhorter, Commissioner Eley and the members of the Fiscal Stimulus Accountability Group for their effective and dedicated partnership as we all continue to work together to increase service reliability across the state.”

“Broadband is critical to the growth and prosperity of our rural communities,” said Senator Bo Watson (R – Hixson).

“Because of our conservative approach to budgetary management, we have the opportunity to invest in important projects, such as broadband roll-out, which will boost future economic growth. I am confident that this investment will bring great returns for our state and its citizens.”

“In today’s world, reliable broadband is as important as water and electricity,” said Representative Patsy Hazlewood (R – Signal Mountain). “This expansion will be transformative for Tennessee families and businesses by removing barriers to commerce, healthcare and education opportunities, and other necessities of modern life.”

For this round of funding, TNECD received 218 applications requesting over $1.2 billion.

The final grants will be divided among 75 applications submitted by 36 grantees, all of whom will provide broadband in various underserved regions of Tennessee. These grantees are a range of Internet service providers, including electricity and telephone cooperatives, municipalities, private providers and cable companies. These grantees were selected based on a rigorous criterion that included necessity of the grant area, ability to complete the project, and strong community support.

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The grantees will provide approximately $331 million in matching funds to complete these projects, representing a total investment of $778 million in new broadband infrastructure projects statewide. These projects must be completed within three years.

This grant is the latest round of funding to support DTC in its efforts to become a world-class fiber broadband provider.

Speaking during Saturday’s annual meeting, Chris Townson, CEO of DTC Communications, spoke about how far DTC has come over the past few years to improve the lives of the people and communities it serves through better broadband and technology solutions.

If you’ve been with me for a very long time, you’ve probably heard me say, “At DTC, we do everything we do because people matter.” I say it a lot because it’s true. One of DTC’s core values ​​is People First. It’s in our DNA and has been since the founding of the cooperative.

2021 has been one of the most challenging years in the history of the cooperative as we work to serve our members and the communities we serve. We had hoped that as the chapter closed on 2020, our communities and our company would emerge from the pandemic and things would return to normal. When that didn’t quite happen as planned, we longed for a new normal. Then we discovered that there probably isn’t a new normal; There is only the next normal. And as we transitioned from one normality to the next, we’ve focused even more on putting people first.

We are no strangers to challenges in the telecommunications industry. Technological advances and ever-increasing bandwidth demands require combining a forward-thinking attitude with responsiveness and flexibility. In the face of supply chain delays, escalating costs and exponentially increasing customer demand, DTC delivered efficiently and effectively for our members. The following achievements represent just a portion of DTC’s overall achievements on behalf of its members in 2021.

• DTC built over 350 miles of trunkline fiber optic network
• We added fiber to 3,500 additional buildings
• We have connected more than 5,000 existing and new members and customers to the fiber optic network
• We have achieved over 30% growth in bandwidth demand year over year
• DTC provided infrastructure for local district school systems to have ubiquitous broadband connectivity
• We have invested in local classrooms and encouraged student progress in video production
• We have advanced work on a USDA Reconnect Grant, which will bring additional dollars back to the benefit of owners
• We have completed approximately ¾ of the cooperative’s fiber optic overlay project
• All income has been reinvested into the cooperative to ensure members receive advanced services as quickly as possible and at a reasonable price

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Today, we’re working harder than ever to contain costs, reduce the impact of supply chain issues, and connect our neighbors, friends, and newcomers to a world-class network that offers unlimited opportunity. We have been assisted in this process by the successful acquisition of:

• 2018 TNECD Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act grant
• 2020 TNECD Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund Grant
• 2020 USDA ReConnect Program Grant
• 2021 FCC RDOF Auction 904 funding allocation
• 2022 TNECD Emergency Broadband Fund – ARP Grant
• Four – 2022 ARP grants from the districts we serve

At its core, our mission is to provide broadband and technology solutions that improve the lives of our members and the communities we serve. We strive to do what we say, care about people, work with our communities, and build a network that will serve our members today and for decades to come. We hope that you will continue to find us trustworthy, friendly, forward-thinking, committed and a pleasure to do business with.

It’s an exciting time for DTC as we near the end of 2022. The map presented in the annual report and on noticeboards throughout the venue shows past, present and future fiber optic construction areas. As you can see, we continue to work diligently to complete the fiber optic network. We bring new members and customers together every day and our customer satisfaction continues to rise.

Rest assured that your Board of Directors, senior management and employees work to put you first and we appreciate you allowing us to serve you in that capacity. Thank you for being a member of DTC Communications!

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