The Madison, Wisconsin-based telecommunications company has begun rolling out up to 1-gigabit equivalent Internet service in the town of Englewood in McMinn County, Tennessee, starting with more than 700 initial customers.
TDS Telecommunications, an Englewood-based Internet service provider for 37 years, was recognized for its high-speed service in November, company officials said Wednesday in a statement. Services are now available as parts of the project are completed.
Englewood has a population of about 1,500.
“This is an exciting milestone for such an important project,” TDS Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs Drew Petersen said in the release. “Fiber-optic technology is world-class, and we know customers have been eagerly awaiting these types of reliable, high-speed connections.”
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McMinn County Mayor John Gentry said by phone Friday that the project will bring reliable Internet options to rural Englewood residents.
“It’s been a priority for our County Commission in our strategic planning sessions,” Gentry said. “We’ve been working together where we could to strengthen grant applications to bring fiber to our rural areas.”
Gentry said the pandemic has underscored the need for school children to have reliable Internet services when learning remotely, and that kind of service is needed in parts of the community where growth is happening.
“I think the reason you’re seeing this influx of people in East Tennessee is because of the increase in fiber — it’s not the only reason, but I think it’s a big player,” Gentry said. “People can now live in rural East Tennessee in peace and beauty and still have a home office whether it’s in Atlanta, Nashville, Cincinnati. They can work remotely because now there’s fiber. Englewood is one of our most rural areas in the region, so we’re excited about the increase in TDS.”
Gentry said the Athens Utilities Board, a city-run nonprofit based in the county seat of McMinn, also has plans to expand high-speed fiber throughout the county, including the Englewood area.
“There will be several options going forward in this area,” he said.
The product offered by TDS is equal, with equal upload and download speeds, according to spokeswoman Missy Kellor.
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The maximum speed available will be 1 gigabit with a range of other options available, Kellor said in the release. Businesses on the construction site can choose a dedicated connection of up to 10 gigabit, supported by a service level agreement. The company expects to complete the project before the end of the year and connect more than 1,200 residential and commercial properties, he said.
In addition to standard service options, TDS also offers a low-cost service called TDS Connect that includes Internet speeds of up to 200 megabits per second for eligible customers, according to company officials. The monthly cost of TDS Connect is fully covered by the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connect Program benefit. The incentive provides up to $30 per month in Internet service discounts for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households in eligible areas, according to the FCC.
“We strongly encourage residents to check and see if they qualify for an ACP so they can stay connected to the Internet without having to cut back on other essentials,” Petersen said.
TDS is financing the Englewood project entirely through private equity investment, according to Kellor. He declined to give an investment amount.
“We’re really excited about this project,” Kellor said in a follow-up interview Friday by phone. “We have an event on April 4, and we hope the community comes out to celebrate the launch of fiber service in their community.”
In neighboring Monroe County, the company is using a $13 million Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund-American Rescue Plan grant to build fiber networks in Ball Play, Coker Creek and Tellico Plains, Kellor said.
Englewood residents can find out more about services at TDSFiber.com or 888-225-5837. The April 4 event is scheduled for 11 am-1 pm at the Englewood Community Center.
Contact Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569.