Springville, Tenn.–An informational meeting on the expansion of broadband and fiber networks in Henry County was held last night at the Sulphur Wells Church of Christ in Springville.
WK&T, West Kentucky and Tennessee Telecommunications Cooperative, hosted the meeting to discuss the next steps in expanding their fiber broadband network. Trevor Bonnstetter, CEO of WK&T welcomed the crowd and thanked everyone for the support of this project.
A total of $2 million in state broadband grants have been awarded to WK&T under its Broadband Accessibility Grant program. The cooperative will match these funds, investing a total of more than $4 million to build a fiber network in Henry County.
“This was a highly competitive grant process, and we are thrilled to have been chosen from among the many companies who applied,” Bonnstetter said. “This grant will help us deliver broadband to an area of the state that desperately needs access.”
The project calls for building a fiber network in two areas of Henry County. One area lies east of Highway 79 and west of Kentucky Lake, while the second area is west of Highway 79 and northeast of Paris. WK&T applied last fall for what was the second round of Tennessee’s broadband grant program.
“Broadband internet is a vital piece of infrastructure which is highlighted with this announcement. This grant positions Henry County for other job-creating opportunities in the years to come,” according to Henry Co. Mayor Brent Greer. “Residents and businesses in rural Henry County deserve the same quality of internet service offered in metropolitan areas. We are grateful to WK&T and the governor’s grant program for bringing this world-class network to Henry County.”
Many residents in the affected communities submitted testimony to support the grant application, citing how a lack of reliable broadband negatively impacts their quality of life in areas such as education, business opportunities, health care, family and safety. Many of these same residents signed commitments for connections last night to bring broadband to their homes.
Henry Co. Farm Bureau President Bobby Milam said he strongly supports the project. Milam said, “Broadband has been strongly advocated by the Farm Bureau for the past four to five years for this very type of project for the rural community. We feel it is truly vital for broadband to be available to the agriculture community, which is used for technological farming, studying market trends, and brings our rural communities in line with real world technology.”
“This award will enhance the tourism, retirement, and vacation attractiveness near the Tennessee River in rural Henry County,” according to Sen. John Stevens. State Rep. Bruce Griffey also was in attendance.
This project will take time to connect all interested customers, but when completed, the network will make high-speed broadband internet access available to 912 homes.
The Broadband Accessibility Grant program, started under former Governor Bill Haslam’s tenure, appears set to continue under the new administration. Governor Bill Lee’s proposed state budget increases the program by $5 million to a total of $20 million for the next round.
Photo: From left, Sen. John Stevens, State Rep. Bruce Griffey, CEO Trevor Bonnstetter. (Photo by Mary Hickman).