COLUMBIA — South Carolina will soon use TV signals to enable students without high-speed internet to get and complete their virtual assignments at home, officials announced Wednesday.
The pilot program launching next month will benefit about 5,000 students in three districts: Fairfield and Jasper counties and York 1.
“We’re taking the schoolhouse to the child,” Gov. Henry McMaster said at a joint announcement with state Superintendent Molly Spearman and South Carolina Educational Television officials.
The technology, called datacasting, will use the state’s public airwaves to transmit encrypted data to the computers of students who either didn’t qualify for taxpayer-paid mobile hot spots or live in an area where the cellphone signal is too weak for the Wi-Fi device to do much good.
Nearly 89,000 of those hot spots, bought with federal coronavirus aid, went to households of K-12 students poor enough to qualify. By Tuesday, all 81 of South Carolina’s school districts had started the school year, mostly with a mix of in-person and online learning. But how many students statewide still lack the ability to access their schoolwork at home remains unclear.
Officials call the SCETV transmissions another short-term solution in bridging South Carolina’s digital divide until broadband is extended to every community.
“This is a piece of the puzzle that’s vital at this particular time,” said Sen. Thomas Alexander, R-Walhalla.