A $3.5M grant to bring next generation fiber optic broadband to the Sharps Chapel Community of Union County was submitted by Sunset Digital Communications to the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Grant Program. The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) will announce the grant recipients in March 2019. A public comment period on all grants submitted begins on 28 November and ends on 20 December. YOU can help!
Tennessee Broadband Ready Communities
With gigabit fiber internet slowly proliferating around the country because of municipal fiber projects, Google Fiber, startup ISPs, and new investment from incumbents spurred by grants and competition, America is quickly dividing into two additional segments, no longer is it those that have internet and those that do not, now we are seeing further divide between those that have fast internet and those who do not.
Communities are keen to implement next generation fiber optic infrastructures, as they recognize such assets are crucial to economic development and growth strategies and are not merely an entertainment medium. Only about 25 percent of Tennesseans have access to fiber with rural areas lagging far behind, and that’s bad news for rural economies. Big Telecom has little interest in expanding to small towns and farmlands, as shareholders are out for a return on their investment; running fiber optic cable into rocky Appalachian soil isn't cheap.
The “digital divide” is the gap that exists between individuals advantaged by the internet and those individuals disadvantaged by lack of access to the internet. The divide has widened as technology has advanced with the advent of next generation fiber optic broadband that can make 1 GB broadband speeds available. The growing gap disproportionately affects rural areas as rural residents have few choices of internet service providers – or none at all. They pay higher prices for lower quality service.
Local business leader Rick Riddle visited Union County Commission April 9, asking commissioners to pass a resolution from First District Commissioner Stanley Dail taking steps towards greater broadband Internet access for Union County homes and businesses.
Riddle, whose family owns Seven Springs Farm, had some startling figures to share. He said 25 percent of Union Countians don't have access to broadband. That means that students can't complete schoolwork at home, adults can't pursue online degrees, and opportunities to work from home are limited.