Duck River EMC, Shelbyville, Tenn., has won a grant award of more than $2.14 million from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).

The grant will fund the cooperative’s construction of a fiber loop and its Smart Grid fiber communication project. That project calls for the deployment of Smart Grid upgrades that will form the backbone of a gigabit-speed fiber broadband network.

“This project will help enable our Internet service provider (ISP) partners to provide affordable broadband access to 1,202 businesses and 2,876 households in … three DREMC-served counties that are also in the ARC footprint,” said Teresa Sampson, Key Accounts coordinator at Duck River EMC. Sampson added that while the cooperative doesn’t plan on becoming an Internet service provider, “we do want to be part of the solution in helping get high-speed broadband access to our service area.”

Sampson added that the entire Duck River EMC fiber backbone project, a 350-mile loop of their service area, is a $15 million investment by the electric cooperative that will take over three years to complete.

“Since a large part of [our] service area is in very rural areas, there is a critical need for broadband to be made available to our members,” added Sampson. “We get it; economic development is a key part of our mission as an electric cooperative, and broadband access has become fundamental in our modern day.”

The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic-development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.