(August 26, 2020) — Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative received $672,000 in grants from the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund to extend broadband access in its service territory. Approved MLEC projects will target community Wi-Fi hotspots in all nine cities and broadband for the rural areas of Houston County.
The award is part of $61 million in emergency grants funded through Tennessee’s Coronavirus Relief Fund and distributed through the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Successful applications were to be “shovel ready” and able to meet a December 15, 2020 completion deadline.
With MLEC already working on fiber broadband construction in parts of Houston County, the area made a natural application to fit the State’s criteria. This portion of the grant ($660,000) essentially helps speed up the delivery to this county and helps MLEC’s overall Meriwether Lewis Connect, LLC, project timeline and financial commitment for all five counties.
The remaining $12,000 will be used to upgrade MLEC’s free community Wi-Fi hotspots in Centerville, Erin, Hohenwald, Linden, and Waverly to accommodate more connections at better speeds. New spots will also be constructed in Lobelville, McEwen, New Johnsonville, and Tennessee Ridge so that an option is available to MLEC members in each city it serves.
In-home/business broadband internet installations are currently ongoing in all nine MLEC cities, as well as several rural areas of Humphreys County. Phase 3 of the cooperative’s project was recently announced for Lewis and Perry counties and construction is scheduled to begin in December. Phase 4, expected to begin in October 2021, will extend broadband to the rural areas of Hickman County.
“We are always looking for ways to deploy high quality broadband to our members and will continue with this effort until we are complete,” says MLEC President and CEO Keith Carnahan. “Members can register their interest at mlconnect.com, and we will reach out to them when installations begin in their area.”
MLEC is a member-owned, not-for-profit electric utility that serves more than 35,000 meters in Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Lewis and Perry counties. Learn more about MLEC’s broadband project and other information at www.mlec.com.