COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- South Carolina lawmakers have already vowed to spend $50 million to improve internet access here in the state. But based on testimony from experts at an education committee earlier this week, that money only scratches the surface for what is needed.
“I cannot help but thinking about a 6 year old child that has no internet. And I know we’re all focused on that, but my point is we can’t take 10 years to get this right,” said Jim Stritzinger, who presented a broadband coverage map to lawmakers Wednesday.
Issues with access to high speed internet have been brought to the forefront with the coronavirus pandemic. The lack of access is impacting education, healthcare and business.
Stritzinger continued, “Speed equals quality of service particularly for students doing their homework, residents trying to get a telehealth assessment in their house. They need a good quality service to get the job done.”
Data shows more than 180,000 South Carolinans don’t have internet access. But as members of the COVID-19 Education Committee learned Wednesday, there is no quick or easy way to connect them.
Members are looking into short term options like mobile hot spots for students, which have limitations.
Nanette Edwards with the Office of Regulatory Staff explained, “There’s going to be areas where that wireless tower is not available to that student.”
And datacasting, which uses transmitters that turn SCETV’s broadcast signal into WiFi for students allowing them to access specific content only.
The CEO of SCETV, Anthony Padgett broke down what datacasting is to lawmakers. “If it’s something a district wants to send to all elementary students they can identify that group and send it or if it’s something for the entire state it could be a state wide cast.”
But long term, funding is needed to build the infrastructure to support high speed internet.
Experts say it will take at least 4 years to get everyone connected.
To help with those long term goals, 4 counties in the state have received grants from the USDA and FCC totaling more than $40 million, which would provide 36 thousand residents to the internet.
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