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Future of Broadband is Bright in Tennessee and Colorado, Say State Rural Development Reps

Elijah Labby

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Photo of rural Tennessee by PxHere used with permission

June 17, 2020 — There are many opportunities for the deployment of broadband technologies, representatives for the states of Tennessee and Colorado said in a webinar Wednesday.

Teresa Ferguson, director of federal broadband engagement for the state of Colorado, said that there are numerous opportunities for Colorado broadband organizations.

The Strategic Planning and Middle Mile Infrastructure Grants commit $25 million for more than 20 regional broadband projects. The grant has allowed for the deployment of three middle-mile networks to connect northwest and southwest Colorado, Ferguson said.

“We think that this holistic approach allows us to fund broadband to the home and to provide cost-effective backhaul alternatives to our communities,” she added.

Additionally, Ferguson said that the last-mile deployment grants had awarded $34 million for 43 projects in unserved areas, helping to serve over 21 thousand homes, farms and ranches.

“87 percent of our rural households now have access to broadband speeds of at least 25/3,” she said. “That's a 17 percent increase in rural connectivity since 2016.”

Opportunities are similar in Tennessee, said Crystal Ivey, broadband director for the office of community and rural development for the state of Tennessee.

Ivey said that the passage of the Tennessee Broadband Addressability Act had helped their mission to close the digital divide in the state.

"Within that legislation, there were various programs and things that we were trying to do to address broadband gaps across the state of Tennessee,” she said.

These programs included the state’s Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program, which provides three years of grant funding for the capital costs of infrastructure deployment, as well as to local broadband providers.

Another program is the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Grant, which Ivey said will provide funding to “any entity legally authorized to provide retail broadband to customers in Tennessee,” continuing to increase internet accessibility.

The coronavirus has made internet access virtually indispensable and highlighted the need for accessibility across the country, and the representatives expressed hope that the agency programs will assist with closing the rural digital divide.

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