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Coffee County – Ben Lomand Communications

Coffee County, Tennessee
coffee-co-broadband

The Pocahontas community in Coffee County is an economically distressed area located approximately 15 miles northeast of the city of Manchester. Like many agriculture-based communities across rural Tennessee, Pocahontas has a high need for broadband. Without it, the residents of Pocahontas are at a huge disadvantage. With the low population density in this rural part of Southern Middle Tennessee, the chances of providers extending service into the area have been low.

Pocahontas has an important asset: the Ben Lomand Rural Telephone Cooperative. The cooperative began in 1954 and now serves Warren, White, Cumberland, Coffee, Grundy and Marion counties. As technology evolved, Ben Lomand determined that fiber deployment was needed to connect the company’s access lines and customers to the world. In 1999, Ben Lomand became the first Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC) owned and operated by a telephone cooperative in Tennessee. By 2017, Ben Lomand and its subsidiaries served 20,351 broadband customers.

 

Broadband Deployment

In 2017, Coffee County and Ben Lomand officials worked to determine customer needs and develop plans to extend broadband fiber service to Pocahontas. After community meetings and input, Coffee County and Ben Lomand officials proposed a “ Fiber to the Premise” network that would serve 20.45 square miles and approximately 1,100 people that were currently without adequate broadband access.

Coffee County and Ben Lomand officials identified federal and state grant opportunities that matched the characteristics and needs of the community. Two adjoining areas fit the criteria for USDA Rural Development Community Connect and TNECD Broadband Accessibility Grant programs.

Last year, USDA Rural Development officials awarded a $1,558,148 Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Community Connect Grant to extend fiber to approximately 179 residential customers in the area. Ben Lomand committed $274,967 in matching funds. It will also provide free community access at a service center to meet USDA program requirements.

TNECD also awarded Pocahontas project a $1,054,824 Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Grant to extend new broadband services to 423 residents and 26 businesses in the area. Ben Lomand provided $1,084,824 in matching funds.

Ben Lomand also worked with Coffee County officials to put in place a new policy that supported broadband expansion in their community by removing barriers for providers in the provision of their services. This policy met the requirements of TNECD’s Broadband Ready Communities program designation and awarded Ben Lomand Communications extra points on their state broadband grant application.

Because of these collaborative efforts, every home and business in the Pocahontas community will have access to broadband with speeds of up to 1 Gbps by the end of 2018.

Pocahontas broadband adoption strategies will include letter and door-to-door campaigns, a community-wide kickoff event, and customer services designed to make residents aware of fiber access and the slate of services that are available. Ben Lomand Communications staff will provide 24/7 customer response services for residents and users. All of these system amenities and adoption services will provide a reliable network with broadband speeds that satisfy current and future demand of subscribers and provide for growth for many years to come.

 

Community Impact

Access to broadband service will give Pocahontas residents economic, healthcare and educational opportunities that they currently do not have access to. Projected project results include

Residential Customers Served 602
Business Customers Served 26
Community Access Facilities 1
Customer Adoption Events 6 (initial and on-going)
Customer Service and Resources 8 (24/7 Customer Response Center, Personal Touch
Customer Services,Digital Literacy Education, TV and Securing System Support, Virus/Spyware Prevention, Secure Remote Support) 
 

 

Project Funding

TNECD Broadband Accessibility Grant $1,054,824
Ben Lomand Communications LLC Match $1,084,824
USDA Rural Development Community Connect Grant $1,558,148
Ben Lomand Communications LLC Match $274,967
Total Broadband System Project Funding* $3,972,763

*Projections for federal and state grant funding, local investments

 

Project Leadership and Partners

Ben Lomand Communications LLC – President – Project Contact
Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development – Tennessee Office

For project contact information visit Ben Lomand Communications.

 

TNECD Broadband Accessibility Program

Access to high speed broadband is one of the most significant economic and quality of life drivers. The TNECD Broadband Accessibility Grant program facilitates broadband access and promotes practices that increase deployment and encourage adoption. The program targets services and funding to areas that are unlikely to receive broadband service without grant funding. TNECD Broadband Accessibility program services are provided through the Governor’s Rural Task Force and Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act of 2017.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. The RUS Community Connect Grant program helps fund broadband deployment into rural communities where it is not yet economically viable for private sector providers to deliver service.

 For more information visit TNECD Community and Rural Development.