The National Center for Education Statistics reports that 18 percent of South Carolina remains unserved or underserved in an era that has shown the necessity of digital communications according to The Center Square. The state is moving quickly to address the coverage gaps, investing $50 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds for broadband expansion.
Among the majority of households that are currently connected, over 70 percent of them have slow connection speeds and operate with less than 1 gigabit broadband. Recognized by Broadband Now as 31 of 50 in terms of state broadband success, South Carolina is pooling its resources to get the rest of its residents adequately connected. The state’s recent investment is expected to bring mobile internet access to 92,000 student households and provide additional outreach to another 25,000 schools, homes, and businesses.
“Initially, we were allocated $29 million and change in CARES funding to build out broadband into those areas in the state that were currently underserved,” stated ORS Broadband Project Administrator, Chris Rozycki. “We were looking to entice broadband providers to identify shovel ready projects that they could build in a very short period of time and bring broadband to some of the underserved areas.”
The South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS), is working with the Department of Education, to create mobile hotspots for students who are currently unconnected. A total of $25.5 million in funding was approved by the ORS to hire 14 companies to complete 76 broadband expansion projects. Additionally, $300,000 was set aside for broadband mapping, a project the ORS says should be completed by the end of November.
With the recent passage of the Broadband Accessibility Act, the South Carolina General Assembly has also opened the door for electric companies to provide broadband service. The state is currently humming with broadband projects, delivering connectivity, and employment to many South Carolinians.
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