COLUMBIA, (SC)- In 2019, internet access almost seems like a guarantee or given, but for many communities in South Carolina internet access is a luxury. In the 2019 Legislative Session the General Assembly worked on legislation to bring internet access to all counties in the state.
It’s called the G.R.E.A.T Program, Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology. The program lays the ground work for the availability of broadband internet access in rural communities.
“Internet is a big problem,” said Danny Black, the president of the Southern Carolina Regional Alliance.
Representative Shedron Williams from Hampton County agreed, “Internet is one of the big problems that we do have.”
Broadband internet access is minimal in rural parts of South Carolina. Danny Black explained some of the reasoning being the lack of availability.
“It’s financing. You got to put the trunk lines and you can run a trunk line into a town of 2 or 3 thousand people because you expect a lot of people to sign up but to go through a rural town where there are not a lot of people to sign up it’s tough.”
It’s a gap that has a direct impact on the communities under-served by broadband.
Williams continued, “We have computers for our students in the schools but when they get home they don’t have broadband or even dial up so they can have access to do their work.”
This year the SC House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill to increase broadband availability.
“In rural areas the state is going to fund and put money behind internet systems,” explained Rep. Williams.
Black added, “Any major company now everything now is going through the internet and they have to have broadband to take care of their shipping needs and things like that.”
The bill will be picked up by a Senate Committee when lawmakers return to the State House in January. The legislation would include Tier IV and Tier III counties, those with the highest unemployment rates and lowest per capita income.