Chances are you’ve heard the phrase “digital divide” when it comes to access to high-speed internet in South Carolina – especially since the beginning of the pandemic.
What is the digital divide? The phrase is defined as the gap between those who have access to technology, the internet, and digital literacy training and those who don’t.
The South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff, a state agency tasked with providing internet connections to those without access during the pandemic, is planning + mapping the expansion of broadband infrastructure across the state focusing on rural communities + those with a high risk of COVID-19. The agency has approved $50 million worth of broadband construction projects.
Areas that have broadband access in SC | Map via Palmetto Care Connections https://www.palmettocareconnections.org/broadband/maps/
Across the state
When it comes to statewide broadband access, SC currently ranks 31st in the US. While some counties do have strong high-speed coverage, a number continue to lag behind.
The Federal Communications Commission estimates 650,000 South Carolinians don’t have access to broadband internet, including over 552,000 in rural areas + ~97,000 in urban areas.
Last week, the South Carolina House and Senate unanimously approved a bill to help bring broadband into communities that need it. Once signed by Gov. Henry McMaster, the bill will allow electric co-ops to lease out current power poles to broadband providers to run high-speed internet lines. This is a quicker solution than installing fiber in the ground.
In Richland County
In Richland county, 98.7% of residents have access to broadband of 25 mbps or higher, while 31.5% have access to 1 gig or higher.
For reference, a recommended broadband speed for Netflix is 3-5 mbps (megabits per second). A single person using streaming services needs a speed of about 25 mbps, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
The FCC estimated that 10,300 Richland County residents do not have broadband – most of whom are in Southeast Richland. In May, County Council voted to spend $85,000 from the general fund to install two miles of fiber as part of the Southeast Richland Water and Sewer expansion project. Once completed, this extension will offer broadband access to 1,000+ residents in Southeast Richland.
Last week, Charlemagne Tha God, a SC Native, national radio station host, + the City of Columbia worked together to launch a Wi-Fi expansion to the Colony Apartments + North Pointe Apartments on Beltline Boulevard. The installation of ten solar-powered Wi-Fi network devices will provide free Wi-Fi to apartment residents + allow students to access remote learning. The project was funded by Charlamagne Tha God and Elevation Church.
Richland certainly has more broadband options than other counties however, for the state capital there is always room for improvement + to build better connectivity.
Internet Provider Options | Map via Broadband Now