By Kristin Jackson, CFO of United Communications
In today’s hyper-connected world, high-speed internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Fortunately, bridging the digital divide has become a strategic priority, with federal and state governments stepping up through grant initiatives. As a company deeply rooted in Middle Tennessee for over 75 years, connecting our community is at the heart of everything we do. That’s why I’m so proud we’ve made grant funding a cornerstone of our expansion efforts.
Since 2020, United Communications has secured over $80 million in grant funding, allowing us to serve areas that might otherwise be impossible to reach due to high expansion costs. As CFO, I’m proud to be part of a team that implements and measures grant success. Leading our grant efforts has been incredibly rewarding, but the real inspiration comes from witnessing my colleagues’ dedication and collaborative spirit. In this blog, I wanted to take you behind the scenes of our grant process, showcasing the dedicated teamwork and strategic approach that fuels our success.
- We consistently pinpoint areas in need.
Our dedication to closing the digital divide starts with meticulously identifying underserved areas. We proactively analyze the FCC Broadband Data Collection maps and regularly engage residents through Project UNITE, ensuring our grant proposals address the most pressing needs. While our initial focus was on communities with internet speeds under 25/3 Mbps, we’re now also targeting areas with internet speeds under 100/20 Mbps, reflecting our commitment to continuous improvement.
- We collaborate with local governments and organizations.
As a local internet service provider, we recognize the immense value of collaboration. Working alongside local governments allows us to develop comprehensive proposals with shared goals and maximize the positive impact on residents and businesses, including schools, local enterprises, libraries, and emergency services. Our ability to leverage our strong working relationships with local governments is central to securing grant funding.
- We foster a collective approach in grant applications.
At United Communications, securing grants is a team effort. Our “all hands on deck” philosophy ensures every department contributes their expertise. Everyone plays a crucial role, including the finance team who ensures financial accuracy, and the engineering and deployment teams who guarantee that our plans meet grant requirements. This collective dedication, evident in the 6-8 week application window and ongoing public comment periods, leads to well-rounded proposals that stand out from the competition.
- We maintain a dedicated approach that ensures timely completion.
Once grants are awarded, the work continues. In most cases, it takes around 2-4 months to finalize contracts, meaning the entire process—from application to final installation—can take up to three years. Nonetheless, once the green light is given, we prioritize swift and efficient execution. We meticulously manage timelines to fulfill our commitment to customers and maintain compliance with grant programs. This ensures timely project completion and the rapid delivery of high-speed internet to every corner of the target communities.
- We measure outcomes by recognizing community impact and economic development.
Our journey doesn’t end with grant awards. Our true reward is measuring the tangible impact our efforts have on the lives of Middle Tennesseans. The most satisfying aspect of our work is witnessing the transformative power of high-speed internet. From helping a rural family access vital telehealth for their children to fostering economic development for entire communities, each success story fuels our dedication. Our goal isn’t just to connect dots on a map—it’s to weave a vibrant tapestry of economic development and empowered communities, one grant at a time.
Our grant success story is built on strategic partnerships, collaborative effort, and efficient execution. As we celebrate each grant awarded, each fiber optic cable laid, and each life touched by high-speed internet, we see a reflection of the potential that lies ahead. This comprehensive approach is the key to securing funding, delivering on the promise of broadband access, and unlocking new opportunities for Middle Tennessee residents and businesses.
If you want to learn more about United Communications or find out if you have high-speed internet access in your community, contact our team or visit Project UNITE today.
About the Author:
Kristin Jackson, CFO of United Communications
As CFO of United Communications, Kristin Jackson brings energy, innovation, and sharp financial acumen to her work. Since joining the company in 2016, Kristin has contributed to United Communication’s growth by leading financial, regulatory, IT, and HR initiatives. Kristin was named the 2021 CFO Of The Year by the Nashville Business Journal and has played a key role in securing more than $53.4 million in state and federal grants through Project UNITE. Kristin serves on the board of the United Community Foundation and is a member of Rutherford Cable, a women’s professional group in Rutherford County. She is also a 2022 graduate of Leadership Rutherford. Kristin and her family live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where they enjoy spending time outdoors together.