THE LINCOLN County Commission approved a $1 million incentive for the county’s five broadband providers earlier this spring, seeking to provide better internet connections to Lincoln County residents in need.
The incentive is derived from American Rescue Plans (ARP) funds and designed to help the county’s broadband providers – Fayetteville Public Utilities, Charter Spectrum, Mediacom, Ardmore Telephone Companies, and United Communications – supply broad- band installation to citizens who are underserved or not served at all. Lincoln County Mayor Bill New- man said the county had received $3.4 million from the ARP for one- time projects, and $1 million was set aside for the broadband project.
“There are many rural areas in Lincoln County that do not have access to broadband or a limited access to any internet,” Newman said.
“Approximately 5,000 residential addresses have a lack of broadband service or none at all, which is about a third of Lincoln County’s total residents,” Newman said. “These numbers give each residence $200.”
“Our proposal for any of the five broadband providers in Lincoln County is if they receive one of the grants through the state for broad- band expansion; we will be giving them $200 for every residential ad- dress that they build out broadband to,” Newman said.
The residence owners are not required to hook up to the new broadband installation in order for the provider to receive the funds.
Britt Dye – CEO and gener- al manager of Fayetteville Public Utilities (FPU) – said FPU has al- ready applied for the grant and is now waiting for the application to be evaluated and reviewed. He be- lieves reliable broadband service is important because of more people working from home, an increased number of students participating in virtual learning, and an increased use of telemedicine.
“We are working with the coun- ty as much as we can,” Dye said. “We both believe in providing good community service, and we’re try- ing to improve the quality of life in those areas that are unserved or undeserved with broadband.”
Dye said FPU has applied for a grant to install fiber to the premises of over 4,000 homes and 92 businesses in the eastern por- tion of Lincoln County, provid- ing about 650 miles of fiber. Dye thanked the county and Newman for working with FPU to provide more broadband service to Lin- coln County residents.
“We realize how important it is to have access to reliable inter- net and hope to be able to provide this service to as many residents as possible,” Dye said.
Newman hopes that all the broadband providers applied for the grant. This information will be known for certain, during the month of August.
Newman said Tennessee has al- ready announced that they will pro- vide grants in the future, something that will be similar to what the state is doing now.
“If we don’t get everybody served this round, we’ll get anoth- er chance to do that in the future,” Newman said. -GN