There are those who view escaping to a place where there is no internet, no social media access or no cell signal for work calls as a dream come true.

When the coronavirus pandemic struck and residents in rural parts of Limestone County found themselves trying to conduct telemedicine appointments or finish school work in parking lots, a life without internet access became more of a bad dream come true.

"It's been an issue in the county for a while, and with the pandemic and e-learning and telemedicine, it became even more apparent that this is something that has to be looked at," said Michelle Williamson, director of community relations and grants for Limestone County.

On Tuesday, Williamson spoke to the Limestone County Commission about a grant application that could alleviate the problem. If approved, the county could receive more than $600,000 to help boost internet access in western parts of the county, where access has proven particularly difficult before and during the pandemic.

Williamson shared with commissioners a map highlighting the areas in Districts 3 and 4 where internet access is reportedly the worst, which included most of the region from the Tennessee River to the Tennessee state line, along the western border of the county.

Commissioners approved applying for the grant unanimously during the special-called meeting.

"This is a much-needed thing," Commission Chairman Collin Daly said. "... It'll work great throughout our county system, with the sheriff's office and things like that having broadband in this area and even with our workloads, doing work orders and things out in the county, we'll have more hot spots for all."

Should the county be approved for the initial $600,000 grant plus additional funding, it's possible other areas in the county will be looked at for improvements to their internet access, Williamson said. It would also be a no-match grant, meaning the county does not have to provide funds of its own for the project.

"That's not something we want to leave on the table," she said.

If the county receives the grant, bidding will then be opened for someone to provide wireless broadband and/or fiber optic internet for the area. Daly and Williamson thanked Terry Acuff, a local grant consultant, for assistance in applying for the grant.

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