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Rural areas getting broadband: Here are low cost internet options

By April 5, 2021 No Comments

Once broadband is expanded into more low-income areas, many families will need help paying for monthly internet services.

Rural areas getting broadband: Here are low cost internet options

Once broadband is expanded into more low-income areas, many families will need help paying for monthly internet services.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Many rural counties will soon have broadband expanded in their neighborhoods.

The Office of Regulatory Staff has announced they’re distributing $30 million to broadband expansion projects in 29 South Carolina counties.

“There’s 14 eligible counties, I believe 15 adjacent counties. And how were these counties chosen? They were chosen because of declining population and poverty level,” explained Executive Director of The ORS, Nanette Edwards, in a recent interview.

Edwards said the agency chose rural counties with high levels of poverty in their school districts. Among the counties that made the list are:

  • Clarendon
  • Orangeburg
  • Fairfield
  • Lee
  • Calhoun
  • Sumter
  • Newberry
  • Kershaw

Once low-income families get broadband expanded to their neighborhood, paying for monthly internet service is another challenge they’ll be faced with.

That’s why there are programs to help families cover costs. For example, the FCC’s Lifeline program offers low-income families up to $9.25 off monthly phone and internet fees. According to their website, “Subscribers may receive a Lifeline discount on either a wireline or a wireless service, but they may not receive a discount on both services at the same time. Lifeline also supports broadband Internet service and broadband-voice bundles.”

AT&T and Xfinity both offer internet for about $10 a month to eligible households. Xfinity is offering the first two months free if customers apply by June 30, 2021.

To help students, The South Carolina Department of Education has paid for over 92,000 families to get hot spots or monthly internet service through CARES Act funding.

Spokesperson Ryan Brown told News19 SCDE is looking into future options once those funds are expended.

Brown said, “there are a number of public and private partnerships that aim to significantly expand broadband access across South Carolina. There are also bills in both our state General Assembly and Congress that would provide significant funding to increase broadband access and affordability across our state and nation. The SCDE is coordinating with these entities to ensure that those families who do not have or cannot afford broadband access will receive service to the largest extent possible.”

Brown suggested that families should reach out to their school districts for more information.

The ORS hopes to get the new broadband expansion projects approved and underway by July.

Source WLTX Channel 19