State broadband map available for public comment

The new state broadband map shows large portions of Moore County with available speeds of less than 100 Mbps. It’s something local company, Monster Broadband, says they are trying to change as quickly as possible. (Graphic Provided)

STATE NEWS | It’s no secret that a large amount of federal infrastructure money now sits in the pipeline to expand Internet access in Lynchburg as well as across the state of Tennessee. As such, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) announced on Monday that the state broadband map that will be used to divvy up those funds is now available for public comment. There is currently $400 million dedicated to expand broadband in Tennessee as of 2022.

Previously, the Broadband Accessibility Grant Program provided grant funding over a three-year period, appropriated at $10 million in 2018, $15 million in 2019, and $20 million in 2020. In 2020, Metro officials and Monster Broadband worked together to secure $1.1 million to expand fiber Internet to 21 roads here Moore County. {To read our coverage of that expansion, click here.}

Monster launched their fiber network in 2018 in the Ridgeville subdivision and now serves over 1,200 fiber customers in Moore and Franklin counties.

“Fiber is definitely the Internet of the future and it’s where most of our current expansion is happening,” said Monster Broadband co-owner Charles “Boo” Johnston. “It’s expensive and it takes time but were passionate about delivering fiber to unserved areas. It’s the reason we exist.”

During the previous rounds of funding, providers had to contribute a 50/50 match for all grant funding. The 2022 grants allow for a 70/30 match, meaning providers only need to contribute 30 percent of the overall funding for the builds.

State seeks citizen feedback on new map

TNECD invites broadband providers, local leaders and community members to provide input on the map via TNECD’s broadband site. The map is available on the TNECD mapping site, and the public comment period closes on May 30, 2022. TNECD invites broadband providers, local leaders and community members to provide input.

“TNECD looks forward to working with Connected Nation and our Tennessee providers to ensure that our communities have the resources and infrastructure in place to further boost the quality of life experienced across our state,” said TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe.

Under contract with TNECD, Connected Nation requested data from providers in Tennessee to create a statewide broadband map. The map includes information, searchable by address, for all 95 counties by covering broadband availability, speeds and technology types. It’s important to note that any home that currently get less than 100 Mbps down in Internet speeds is reflected as unserved on the map, which is why much of Moore County appears unserved despite the fact that they may now have satellite or fixed wireless Internet.

In 2021, the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) recommended that Tennessee join several other states in creating a broadband availability map. Once complete, the map is intended to be used for state broadband funding decisions, as well as serve as a community planning resource.

Following the May 30, 2022, deadline, TNECD will work with Connected Nation to make any necessary validations and adjustments to the map. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Lynchburg. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}