Bridging the ‘digital divide’ in rural South Carolina

Bridging the ‘digital divide’ in rural South Carolina

ABBEVILLE COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - According to a report from the Federal Communications Commission, about half a million South Carolinians don’t have access to high-speed internet.

Earlier this year, the South Carolina House passed a bill that would allow internet providers in the state to apply for grants so they can get high-speed internet service in underserved areas.

David Garner is the County Director for Abbeville County. He said, “We’re very fortunate that most of our developed areas do have high-speed internet. However, when you get into the underdeveloped areas of the county -- that is at the top of our list.”

According to the FCC, about 94.6% of residents in the county have access to 25mbps. Other rural counties aren’t as lucky.

A 2019 FCC shows 40.4% of the observed population in McCormick County have access to high-speed internet.

Lance Tade is the Chief Financial Officer for the West Carolina Rural Telephone Cooperative. He said they serve about 11,000 internet customers. “We strive to meet those economic development challenges you face in rural South Carolina.”

The cooperative has been around for more than 60 years. They were one of the first rural telephone companies to provide high-speed DSL internet access in the state. “IWe are expediting the replacement of copper wiring with fiber optic facilities.”

Garner said the county has made it a priority to make sure neighbors and businesses have access to high-speed internet. “You got water, gas, sewer, and internet really right there at the top of the list. It’s definitely critical for developments, housing. It’s something people have to have in their daily lives.”

He said if the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology Program bill were to become law it would help out his county and other small, rural counties across the state. And could lead to more people and businesses willingly moving to these areas.

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