TN Rural Broadband Project

Building the Foundation for Greater Rural Prosperity

Rural Innovation Strategies Inc. (RISI) is proud to announce the Rural Tennessee Broadband Project. This project will be conducted in partnership with The Ayers Foundation’s sister organization, TAF Covid Response Foundation, and is made possible through COVID-19 relief funding from the governor’s office.

The goal of the Rural Tennessee Broadband Project is to ensure every rural county in Tennessee designated at-risk or distressed has an opportunity to close their broadband gaps once and for all.  

A reliable and fast internet connection is no longer a luxury, but a true necessity of 21st-century life. Work, education, healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing, and entrepreneurship all rely on fast internet. Rural places with good internet are better able to provide opportunities for the young Tennesseans who grew up there to stay and thrive in the rural places they love and call home.  

Today, more state and federal funding than ever is available to permanently fix broadband gaps. With this in mind, Rural Innovation Strategies Inc., experts in rural economic development and rural broadband expansion, were engaged to provide technical support for the at-risk and distressed counties in rural Tennessee to ensure that every county can take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity to fix their broadband for good with future-proof, resilient infrastructure.

Thanks to the clear vision set forth by Governor Bill Lee, and the generous partnership and support of the Tennessee Department of Education and the Tennessee Department of Economic Community Development, we are able to offer these initial services to you at no additional expense to your county.

We hope you will join us in this important initiative. County mayors or other county officials who wish to express interest in participating in the Rural Broadband Initiative should fill out this interest form 

Please feel free to reach out to RISI with any questions at or (731) 400-0219



Click Here to complete the interest form



Each county’s path to broadband coverage may be unique, and as such, the Rural Tennessee Broadband Project process is set up to be flexible; every county may need something different. 

First, leadership from eligible counties is encouraged to express interest in participating via the form above. Even if counties are not sure yet whether they want or need assistance, please fill out the form and the RISI team would be happy to talk through the particulars of your situation.  

RISI will work with TAF Covid Response Foundation to select the counties with the greatest need and the most demonstrated interest in participating in the Rural Tennessee Broadband Project. We will strive to help as many counties as we can, and are asking for expressions of interest to ensure communities are willing to put in time and effort to make sure the process is collaborative and meets the county’s needs. 

After expressing interest, RISI will reach out to learn more about your county’s particular situation and needs.  If you have a plan to close your broadband gaps, our work may involve simply adding capacity, support, and expertise to your plan.  If you don’t yet have a plan, we’ll work with you to understand your current gaps and assets, and the most expedient paths towards closing your broadband gaps. This will involve looking at data from your county on current broadband coverage, population, existing infrastructure, and costs, as well as extensive interviews of potential partners such as local Internet Service Providers (ISPs), electric companies, telephone companies, and more. This phase will result in a work plan that outlines the county’s best path towards closing their gaps. This work will occur through July and into August.  

The second half of the year will be devoted to executing on that work plan. RISI will be there to provide technical support for the work that needs to be done. This could include:  

  • Feasibility analysis
  • Cost estimation
  • Partnership formation and negotiation
  • Business planning
  • Fundraising assistance
  • Demand aggregation and estimation



Any local leaders or officials from the following counties are encouraged to express their interest by submitting this short interest form:  

Benton, Bledsoe, Campbell, Carroll, Carter, Chester, Claiborne, Clay, Cocke, Decatur, Fentress, Gibson, Grainger, Grundy, Hancock, Hardeman, Hardin, Hawkins, Haywood, Henderson, Henry, Hickman, Houston, Jackson, Johnson, Lake, Lauderdale, Lewis, McNairy, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Obion, Perry, Rhea, Scott, Unicoi, Union, Van Buren, Wayne, Warren, White

Why is The Ayers Foundation Involved?

The Ayers Foundation believes that rural Tennesseans shouldn’t need to move to a city to get aspirational, life-changing jobs. They should be able to live and work — and thrive — in whatever place they call home. For that reason, the founders of the Ayers Foundation have created TAF Covid Response Foundation. This new sister organization is focused on leveraging COVID-19 relief funds to expand services and to provide long-term infrastructure solutions in rural Tennessee.

For more than 20 years, the Ayers Foundation has focused on improving the quality of life in Tennessee through financial support for college scholarships, medical services and research, continuing education for teachers, and other charitable donations. Helping Tennessee’s rural communities get high-speed internet access is a natural extension of that work. The foundation recognizes that broadband, like education, is crucial to closing the persistent rural-urban opportunity gap.