Tennessee will spend $500 million of its funding from the American Rescue Plan to expand broadband, state officials announced Wednesday, though exactly where the money goes hinges on a statewide coverage map that’s still being developed.
Gov. Bill Lee said $400 million will fund grants for internet service providers, while the remaining $100 million will be used to subsidize broadband service for low-income families over the next four years, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported. The $500 million comes from $3.72 billion that Tennessee received in the relief package.
Lee said the state later plans to spend an additional $100 million in state funds to expand broadband.
“I think our strategy is to [not only] address individual household and business access to broadband, but also access to institutions in the community that support the folks that live there,” Crystal Ivey, the state’s broadband director, said during the announcement Wednesday.
But officials announced in April the first phase of the funding won’t be distributed until spring 2022 after a statewide address-level coverage map is set to be completed. A second round of funding it planned for winter 2023. The map is being developed after a group of state and local governments called the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations in January recommended officials take “matters into their own hands” when it comes to mapping the state’s broadband.
The Federal Communications Commission assembled a broadband data task force this year to improve its maps, which are currently based on inaccurate, census-block data. The FCC on Friday released a broadband map with updated data for mobile coverage, but has yet to release an updated wired broadband map.