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TVEC Connect Internet Service Available Soon

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After going through the long application process and waiting with bated breath for the results, Tennessee Valley Electric Cooperative (TVEC) finally got the news in late 2022 they were hoping for – they were awarded $21,847,496.68 in TNECD grant funds to be used for broadband internet infrastructure in most of Wayne County and parts of Hardin County.

Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TDEC) awarded $446,770,282 in grants for the expansion of internet access across the state of Tennessee. In total, the broadband infrastructure grants will provide broadband access to more than 150,000 unserved homes and businesses across 58 counties. TVEC received $15,294, 341.80 to be used in Wayne County.

“People are moving to Tennessee from across the nation in record numbers, and we have an obligation to prepare our state for continued growth,” said Governor Bill Lee. “Our strategic investments in broadband infrastructure will ensure our rural communities are connected and have every opportunity to thrive, and I thank the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group for managing dollars effectively to serve Tennesseans.”

Funding for these grants comes through the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund – American Rescue Plan (TEBF-ARP), which utilizes a portion of the state’s federal American Rescue Plan funds to address the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and work toward a strong recovery. Tennessee’s Fiscal Stimulus Accountability Group (FSAG) dedicated $500 million to broadband funding from this program, with more than $446 million going to infrastructure and nearly $50 million going to broadband adoption and digital literacy efforts.

With the help of State Senator Page Walley and State Representative David Byrd (the office now occupied by Representative Kip Capley), the state recognized parts of Wayne County as “rural unserved” communities. The U.S. Department of the Treasury previously defined “unserved areas” as lacking access to a wireless connection capable of minimum speeds of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload. However, due to the increasing demands of the digital age, any connection that provides lower than 100 Mbps download speed and 20 Mbps upload speed is now deemed “unserved.” In consideration of this new definition, application priority was still given to those with the lowest internet speeds, but all applications under this new definition of “unserved” were considered.

TVEC began the engineering for construction of the fiber network in May of 2023. They hired Patterson & Dewar engineering firm to complete this process to ensure the timeframe for construction will be met. Patterson & Dewar employees have signs on their truck to indicate they are working for TVEC.

Fiber construction began in Waynesboro and has begun to build out from that point to the entire TVEC service area. Joey Foster, TVEC’s Director of Information Technology, explained that the contractor crews in the service areas are changing out poles to gain clearance for the fiber internet build-out. The new poles are taller, which is a requirement for the fiber installation. Most Wayne Countians have encountered the service crews at some point and can expect to see them in different areas of the county for several months to come. Foster said that residents of Waynesboro, Collinwood, and Clifton will be the first to be able to hook up to TVEC Connect, with the rural areas of the county coming later. He expects the entire project to be completed by sometime in 2026 or 2027. Anyone that receives electric service from TVEC will have fiber internet available upon completion. “Residents of Wayne County must remember that we have over 2,000 miles that have to be surveyed and poles put up on in the county,” said Foster.

Foster went on to say that Waynesboro residents will soon be receiving a notice attached to their electric bill to let them know the fiber is available and how to subscribe to it. There will be a phone number to call and a website given for residents to get their questions answered about the cost of the fiber internet, the speed, etc.

TVEC asks that members please continue to be patient during the construction process. Poles may be placed on members’ property for a short period of time in advance of the actual change out. This is a necessary step in the process to make fiber in our service area a reality for all TVEC members.

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