PICKENS COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA)- High speed broadband is set to come to some rural and suburban areas in the Upstate. Utility co-ops Blue Ridge Electric and Western Carolina Rural Telephone are partnering to create Upcountry Fiber.
The CEO of Blue Ridge Electric, Jim Lovinggood, said this project to bring the high speed internet service could benefit as many as 250,000 people.
Blue Ridge Electric has been there to bring essential services to people in rural parts of the Upstate since it was founded about 80 years ago.
“You think back or look back at the history 80 years ago when there was no electricity…it’s a very similar feel now when you talk about the lack of broadband high speed internet service because it is a service that people had to have,” Lovinggood said.
Blue Ridge Electric serves people in mostly rural areas of Oconee, Anderson, Pickens, Greenville and Spartanburg Counties. The goal of Upcountry Fiber is to help bridge the “digital divide.” Some people in the service area have access to wireless internet, but some told 7News their service can be slow.
Upcountry Fiber aims to bring high speed broadband through fiber optic cables.
“It’s definitely faster, and it’s going to be very competitively priced,” Lovinggood said.
Upcountry Fiber has tested the project at the Stillwater neighborhood in Seneca. Resident Tim Sevick said the high speed broadband has been an improvement.
“I think ours is like maybe six times faster than we had,” Sevick said.
He said fast internet dosen’t matter that much to him, but it does to his neighbors who work from home.
“It’s a necessity today I guess that it didn’t used to be,” he said.
Crews are adding the fiber to existing utility poles spread across 1,800 square miles in a process that’s expected to take five years.
The project represents a $150 million dollars investment that is partially funded by a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Rates for the service will start at $50 a month, according to Lovinggood.
Those interested in receiving high-speed internet service from Upcountry Fiber can learn more here.