Coping with coronavirus has brought home to South Carolina just how important it is to stay connected. Jim Stritzinger, President and CEO of Revolution D, a consulting firm that works to make maps of broadband service levels, has noted that many household in the state have underperforming broadband, if they have a connection at all. According to Governing.com as many as 435,000 people in 192,000 households are not properly connected.
Stritzinger’s report considers a poor connection to be one that is not strong enough to conduct a telehealth visit, or allow a student to stream educational content. When the pandemic made online learning essential, only 19 of the state’s school districts had the resources to transition to an online format. Bringing South Carolina up to speed could cost the state $800 million, which Stritzinger says could be supplemented with government subsidies.
Expanding broadband would involve burying fiber optic cable in the ground, or using the current system of telephone poles to connect households to the service. AccelerateSC, a group appointed by Governor Henry McMaster, is developing a plan to reopen the economy, including spending $80 million of federal CARES Act money on broadband infrastructure. An additional $20 million is slated for mobile hotspots.
So far, the state legislature has approved only $50 million broadband internet access. Of that $50 million, $20 million is set aside to purchase mobile hotspots and $29.7 million is earmarked for broadband infrastructure, with $300,000 set aside for mapping.
“Eighty million dollars can be deployed pretty quickly, especially with little opposition, in areas of the state where there are no other providers,” Stritzinger stated after hearing the news. “It would really help.”