There’s a common misconception that everyone has access to the internet. But the fact is that a digital divide still exists in this country, and efforts are underway to close that gap in parts of South Carolina with a wave of millions in new funding.
Lagging Internet Services in South Carolina
According to highspeedinternet.com, South Carolina ranks #30 when it comes to connectivity, which doesn’t give the Palmetto State bragging rights. 89% of the state gets DSL, 88% gets cable, and just 20% has access to fiber optics.
But what about the areas that either get no internet services or services that are so poor that they are unusable considering the advances in technology? Whether it is school-age children that can’t connect to do their homework or businesses that need the internet to operate, not having this access can be challenging.
According to one report, over 530,000 South Carolinians, or roughly 11% of the state’s population, lack access to adequate internet services, and over 300,000 lack access to even basic internet. Fortunately, things are about to change thanks to some fresh funding.
More Internet Availability Coming Soon to SC
In 2018, Congress approved $600 million in new funding earmarked for the USDA to be given as grants to local communities for the improvement of internet access. South Carolina will begin to experience the benefits of this program in 2020 on the heels of the approval of several new programs.
As part of the federal ReConnect program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will contribute $8.2 million to expand internet access in Charleston and Berkeley counties. That figure is going to be matched by another $8.2 million from Moncks Corner-based Home Telecom.
The new infrastructure of cables will make high-speed broadband internet available to about 19 local businesses, two dozen farms, and nearly 3,800 households. Home of the communities that will receive this expanded access includes Awendaw, Huger, McClellanville, and Shulerville.
Will Helmly, CEO of Home Telecom, states that work on the new fiber network should begin mid-2020, and project completion will take about five years. The company plans to lay about 100 miles of fiber cable underground.
There are similar projects underway in other parts of South Carolina. Orangeburg County received $9.8 million in funding to help residents that lack internet access entirely. This upcoming project is expected to bring service to about 3,900 households.
In total, $200 million in awards are coming to South Carolina from the USDA, and this doesn’t count any matching funds from private enterprise. The federal agency states that additional funding announcements will be made over the next several months.
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