Anderson Co. starting mobile hotspot program to address internet issues

Local News

ANDERSON COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – A mobile hotspot program will soon start in Anderson County to address internet issues as leaders aim to fix its broadband infrastructure.

The Anderson County Library System is starting the new pilot program which will allow people to take the hotspots home with them for a period of time.

Annie Sutton, Director of the Anderson County Library System said they are working to start the program at all nine library locations in the county.

Sutton said an adult with a library card will be able to check out a hotspot for two weeks.

“This would just allow them to have internet unlimited,” said Sutton. “It is filtered, just like it is in any library.”

Sutton said they thought of the idea during the pandemic.

“Well, the pandemic highlighted the lack of broadband infrastructure for some families in Anderson County,” Sutton explained. “Essentially, there’s about 18,000 households in the county that do not currently have an internet subscription.”

“Essentially, what we’re doing is starting a hotspot checkout program at the library to help bridge that gap and get internet into the hands of those families that may need them for education, for schoolwork, or maybe some people who are looking for jobs, doing applications,” she said.

“That’s a great idea, so that people that have trouble maybe getting into the library sometimes, will be able to do that,” said Anderson County resident Kristy Drees. “We’ve actually had trouble finding internet too. So, the internet doesn’t always work. We would definitely use this.”

Sutton said the county has pledged to fund the project with more than $20,000 over the next two years.
She hopes this partnership with the county also solves a greater issue.

“What we hope to do with the project is to take those numbers to the county so that they understand in which areas there are people who do not have internet,” Sutton said. “So we can sort of track how geographically how they’re being checked out, so that we can, in Anderson County, help to improve that infrastructure.”

Another benefit of the program, according to county administrator Rusty Burns, is the data will allow them to see where in the county they have weak coverage.

“We have a map that shows where we have broadband Wi-Fi, and we know where those areas are, and we’ve got some pretty significant gaps in areas of the county,” said Burns. “We are working with Western Carolina Telephone and we’re working with Blue Ridge Electric and other people, to try to fill in those gaps in Anderson County.”

Burns said the county hopes to fill those gaps with money from federal and state governments.

“Those services now are just like water and sewer,” said Burns. “I mean it effects everything, and if children don’t have access to that, it’s very hard for them to do their homework. If you’re trying to find a job and you’re sitting at home, and you don’t have that ability, that also hurts you.”

Sutton said the hotspots are a short-term solution to the long-term problem of getting internet to everyone in the county.

“We’re hoping that this is a pilot program. We hope that it’s successful,” said Burns. “We hope that we’re able to sustain it, which I’m pretty sure that we will, and hopefully one day it won’t be necessary, but that day will be a little ways off.”

Drees said she’s happy something is happening right now.

“There are some people like me that have trouble getting to the library often, so the longer the better, but you know, the fact that they’re doing it at all is a God-send,” Drees said.

Sutton said the library should receive the hotspots within the next week or two, and hope to have the project off the ground at the beginning of November.

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