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Schools get fed. internet funding; Aiken Electric Co-op taking fiber to North

By August 24, 2020No Comments

The Times and Democrat by

Two North schools will receive high-speed Internet access with the help of federal coronavirus relief money.

Aiken Electric Cooperative will receive $151,955 to construct and extend fiber cable from its network to the North Middle/High School and North Elementary School as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act Coronavirus Relief Fund.

Construction will begin Oct. 1, with installation complete by the end of December, according to the cooperative’s application submitted to the S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff.

The ORS is responsible for administering the CARES Act money as part of the state’s Broadband Infrastructure Program.

McCall-Thomas Engineering will provide the design and construction services for the project.

The broadband project will bring 1 gigabyte speed to the schools and will aim to offset some of the technological challenges that have come to light due to the coronavirus in the areas of education.

“Most, if not all, school systems in S.C. are allowing parents to select either ‘in school’ or ‘distance learning’ for their children,” the cooperative wrote in its application for the funding. “Having the ability for the teacher to provide ‘distance learning’ while at the same time providing ‘in school’ learning allows students a similar learning experience.”

The S.C. General Assembly and Gov. Henry McMaster approved spending about $50 million of CARES Act funds for the broadband program.

Of that total, $20 million was budgeted for the ongoing Online Learning Initiative, and $29.7 million was allocated to support broadband infrastructure expansion.

The state’s broadband program was created to provide high-speed broadband internet access to communities or households hindered in their ability to respond to the challenges of COVID-19 due to a lack of broadband.

The Aiken Electric project is among 81 submitted by 13 broadband service providers across the state and tentatively approved by ORS. The projects cover 29 counties and total $26 million.

The broadband infrastructure program could bring service to approximately 27,994 homes and 771 businesses, supplementing industry investment with federal CARES Act funding. Based on the applications received, the average federal CARES Act funding is approximately $884 per home and business.