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Governor, congressman reach across political divide to bring broadband access to rural SC

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The Republican governor of South Carolina and one of the state’s longest-serving Democratic congressmen got together today to announce GetConnectedSC, a high-speed internet access and adoption campaign to bring service to areas of the state that have lagged behind advances elsewhere.

Gov. Henry McMaster and Congressman James E. Clyburn were joined by officials from the S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff’s Broadband Office and the S.C. Department of Administration’s Digital Equity Office to announce GetConnectedSC. They said in a news release that access to high-speed internet will transform how South Carolinians engage with the online world.

“The creation of the ‘GetConnectedSC’ campaign is the next logical step as we work to roll-out high-speed internet statewide,” Jim Stritzinger, director of the SC Broadband Office, aid in the release. “We have a lot of momentum deploying infrastructure; however, that is just the first step. We need to help residents with affordability and the attainment of digital skills too. That’s where the SCDEO comes in.”

The campaign is designed to identify the areas of greatest need in the state, invest in broadband infrastructure to those areas and provide support services to make that transformation possible for every home, business and community organization in South Carolina, according to the news release.

In addition to a new website, the campaign includes a 26-community listening tour and a Better-Internet Survey. The survey is designed to capture the barriers to internet adoption of unserved, underserved and underrepresented communities statewide. Information gathered will shape a five-year broadband plan. 

The initiative is part of a nationwide effort to improve broadband access, the release said. In 2021, Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which included $65 billion for the deployment of broadband infrastructure development and digital inclusion efforts across the country. As a required first step in the deployment of these funds, South Carolina was granted planning funds for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment and Digital Equity programs which ultimately lead to additional grants.

“I have been a persistent advocate for incorporating local community feedback in our efforts to make high-speed internet service accessible and affordable for every South Carolinian, and that is why I am excited to help announce the launch of “GetConnectedSC,” Clyburn said in the release. “This critical initiative was authorized and funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and will bring us one step closer to closing the digital divide in South Carolina.”

Once the South Carolina five-year plans have been approved, a minimum of $100 million additional federal funds for the BEAD program and tens of millions for the DE program will be made available to South Carolina to continue investment in broadband infrastructure and adoption statewide, the release said.

“Providing access to reliable, high-speed internet is one of the most important things we can do to ensure the prosperity of our rural communities in South Carolina,” McMaster said in the release. “In order to fully take advantage of the opportunity available to us, we need South Carolinians to participate in this survey process.” 

Reach Ross Norton at 864-720-1222.

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