VEC and Broadband
Volunteer Energy Cooperative has partnered with Twin Lakes Telephone Cooperative to launch a broadband fiber to-the-home pilot program. Similar to electricity in the 1930s, high-speed internet has transformed from a luxury to necessity, which mirrors the original mission of VEC, to provide access to a service that others are unable or unwilling to provide. With the vast majority of VEC members living in rural Tennessee communities, the VEC board of directors made the decision that we should be the vehicle that connects internet accessibility to the unserved VEC community. The passing of the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act in 2017 finally allowed the idea to become a reality.
Since then, VEC has been awarded seven grants totaling over $13.6 million to aid the cooperative in the cost of our fiber optic network construction. The first grant came from the Appalachian Regional Commission, which awarded VEC a $1 million grant to provide broadband service to the Birchwood Community of Meigs and Hamilton counties. In 2019, the construction of fiber-optic infrastructure began in Meigs County. Over 700 homes/businesses in Birchwood and 900 plus homes/businesses in Ten Mile now have access to high-speed fiber.
The second grant came from the State of Tennessee through the Broadband Accessibility Act. The state awarded VEC a $1.3 million grant to provide broadband service to the Spring Creek Community of McMinn County. As a result, McMinn County now has high-speed broadband available to over 400 homes/businesses.
Current projects involve seven counties in VEC’s service area including the Cottonport and Big Spring communities in south Meigs County and the Riceville community in McMinn County. The make-ready is underway, and construction will begin in late 2021 or early 2022. Once completed, over 2,000 homes/businesses will have access to high-speed broadband services.
For anyone not inside one of the existing or proposed service areas, know that we are actively pursuing and applying for additional grants. Twin Lakes Telephone Cooperative, our broadband partner, is bidding on funds from the FCC Rural Development Opportunity Fund. We expect Twin Lakes to garner additional monies for our broadband program through this opportunity. VEC also plans to apply on additional grants throughout 2022.
If you would like to express interest in having VEC-Twin Lakes internet service in your area, please sign up at www.vec-twinlakes.com or call 1-800-644-8582.