Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Grant

Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, Tennessee Broadband Initiative


"The enabling legislation for the grant program establishes priority for projects that:
-Serve locations without access to download speeds of at least ten megabits per second (10 Mbps) and upload speeds of at least one megabit per second (1 Mpbs);
-Propose to acquire and install infrastructure that supports broadband services scalable to higher download and upload speeds without taking precedent over the number of locations and size of the area to be served;
-Serve locations with community support including participation in the Broadband Ready Community program;
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-Have not received funds or have not been designated to receive funds through other state or federally funded broadband grant programs; and
-Will provide higher download and upload speeds to locations served."

Award Amount: $2 million max grant request

Eligible Recipients:

For-Profit Business; Internet Service Provider; Local Government; Non-Profit Organization

Eligible Recipients Detail:

Applicants must be authorized to provide retail broadband in the area proposed to be served with grant funding.
-Types of eligible applicants:
o Political subdivisions or entities of political subdivisions,
o Corporations,
o Limited liability companies,
o Partnerships or other business entities,
o Cooperatives organized under Tenn. Code. Ann. § 65-25-101 et seq. and § 65-29-101 et seq., and
o Any other entity authorized by state law to provide broadband services.

Eligible Purpose:

Last Mile Infrastructure

Eligible Purpose Detail:

The grant will cover up to 50% of eligible project expenses.
-Applicants with additional local match or leveraged funds will receive additional points in the scoring process. Federal grant or other federal broadband funding is not an eligible match.
-Eligible project cost: costs associated with the installation and/or acquisition of middle-mile and last-mile broadband infrastructure that supports broadband service at the locations and speeds identified in the application.
o Examples: Project planning, construction permits, construction of facilities, equipment, installation, and test of service.
-Ineligible costs:
o General broadband planning not associated with a specific last-mile build,
o Operational expenses,
o Middle-mile infrastructure that is not directly connected to service provision for an end user,
o Expenses related to the provision of telephone or video services which are not necessary for the delivery of broadband services.
-Applicants will be required to obtain review of the project application by a Professional Engineer (PE) or another qualified individual. If the evaluation is not stamped by a PE, applicants must provide the credentials of the individual who prepared the report.
-TNECD reserves the right to amend the scope of grant awards or partially fund applications.

Excluded Programs:

For areas that are eligible for RDOF funding but have not yet been built out, the fact that the area is RDOF eligible will count against an application to serve one of those areas in the scoring but it will not make an area ineligible for grant funding. Ten points will be awarded to every application for an unserved area that is not in a RDOF eligible area. This determination will be made by overlaying a map of the proposed service area with the census blocks eligible for RDOF funding.

The state grant will not fund overlapping areas of federal grant programs like USDA ReConnect or EDA for funds providing a fixed, terrestrial 10mb/1mb connection that has been approved and announced in advance of state awards announcements. This includes ReConnect Round 1.

Other Eligibility Criteria:

Eligible Areas:
-Grant funding can only be used to pay for costs associated with deployment of broadband to unserved areas.
-An unserved area is defined as a designated geographic area in which households or businesses are without a fixed, terrestrial connection supporting at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds.
o Areas lacking fixed, terrestrial 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speeds will be given priority in application scoring.
-Proposed service areas are not required to be contiguous. However, non-contiguous areas more than 10 miles apart must include an explanation of how the economic and community impact is the same for the proposed areas.
-Determination of the available broadband service:
o The most recent available data from the FCC Form 477 will be used to determine existing service levels.
o Because this data is collected on a census block level and can overstate the availability of services, an applicant is permitted to provide additional information to demonstrate that the proposed service area is in fact unserved.
o Additional information must be sufficient to conclude that an area is in fact eligible and may include but is not limited to:
▪ Statistically significant survey data for the designated area, or
▪ Documentation of the location of existing infrastructure within a given census block.
o If a new FCC data set is released during the application period or scoring period, grant finalists will be given a three-week period to respond to any changes in the data in their proposed service areas.
-Application scoring will include an evaluation of the likelihood that the proposed area will receive broadband service without state grant funding. This will include consideration of federal funding sources including FCC CAF II or RDOF eligible areas, USDA ReConnect or others that will result in the provision of at least a fixed, terrestrial 10/1 service. Applications must include a map file (acceptable formats: .shp, .kml, or .kmz) of the proposed service area.
-Maps of areas eligible according to the FCC data will be available as well as a downloadable GIS shapefile for use in preparing an application.
-Applicants may provide information regarding additional infrastructure deployments that are not eligible for grant funding to provide context for the proposed project in the relevant portions of the application.

Funding Match/Terms:

Grant covers up to 50% of eligible project expenses. For the first 85% of the grant award, expenses will be reimbursed as incurred and requests for payment are submitted. The remaining 15% of grant funds will be available upon submission of grant closeout and final report.

Note/Additional Resources:

Digital Inclusion: https://www.tn.gov/ecd/rural-development/tennessee-broadband-grant-initiative/digital-inclusion-toolkit.html