Funds the Hamilton County Cooperative to bring high-speed internet to Walden’s Ridge neighborhood

Outside of Gig City in Chattanooga, some rural areas of Hamilton County still lack high-speed internet.

But for the second time in as many months, Hamilton County commissioners have agreed to help fund a cooperative seeking to bridge that digital divide and expand broadband service in the northern part of the county.

County commissioners voted Wednesday to provide $40,000 as part of a $525,129 project planned by a subsidiary of Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative to service 128 households on Leggett Road and Downey Drive on top of Walden’s Ridge with high-speed Internet connections.

Through BTC Communications, Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative plans to expand its fiber-optic network up the mountain to serve the rural area, provided the proposal gains approval of a $400,000 grant request from the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund that uses some of the state’s share from the government federation. US bailout money.

“Some people who moved to Leggett Road thought they were going to Gig, and they just thought everyone in Hamilton County would be covered by the EPB,” Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said during a committee meeting on Wednesday.

But the state has restricted the EPB to serving the electric service area only, and Sequachee Valley Electric, which serves Leggett Road, does not offer broadband coverage in that rural part of Hamilton County.

Staff file A photo of Robin Rudd/General Manager of the Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative, Charlie Boring, left, and engineering coordinator Matthew Boynton discuss the challenges of providing Internet service to a rural area. Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative has added gig service in Sequatchie and Bledsoe counties.

“There are some companies at home and people trying to complete university courses that now don’t have access to broadband and they actually have to get off Leggett Road to get close to town to get internet,” Coppinger said.

County Mayor Bledsoe Telephone Coop thanked “for improving the lives of these people.”

Matt Boynton, engineering coordinator for Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative, said BTC Communications is seeking to serve part of Hamilton County as one of six counties in southeast Tennessee where the telephone cooperative hopes to expand broadband service, if requests for government grants are approved. As a telephone co-op, the Bledsoe telephone is able to work with BTC Communications service areas that are not covered by the rural telephone co-op area.

“We’ve had 65 messages of support from people in this area, and people have been very excited about the possibility of having this fiber-optic connection,” Boynton said.

The 8.5-mile fiber-optic line will provide high-speed Internet connections at an average cost of $4,102 per household, but 70% of that cost will come from a state grant and nearly 10% will come from the county.

Last month, Hamilton County commissioners approved matching $61,671 to the Volunteer Electric Cooperative to expand broadband service to 1,395 homes and other businesses around Birchwood. This $6.2 million project proposed in northern Hamilton County is part of more than $125 million projects being proposed by Volunteer Cooperative Energy to bring a fiber-optic network to underserved parts of eight counties in eastern Tennessee.

“Every one of our citizens needs high-speed Wi-Fi, and we thank you for your services to help make that happen,” Hamilton County Commissioner Steve Highlander, Hamilton County Commissioner, told leaders of the Telephone Cooperative on Wednesday.

EPB, which received a $111 million federal grant in 2010 to build its fiber optic network, has provided high-speed Internet connections to all of its electric customers in the Chattanooga area for nearly a decade.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.

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Personnel file Photo Ben Benton/Bledsoe Collaborative Telephone Technician Houston Thomas checks connections at a test house for digital internet, television, and phone service in Pikeville. BTC is working to complete the first phase of the project in Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties.