Progress being made to bridge SC’s digital divide, fixed wireless a possible solution

Updated: Oct. 20, 2020 at 6:15 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina is investing millions of dollars from the CARES Act to help bridge the state’s digital divide.

Right now, about 400,000 South Carolinians do not have access to high-speed internet access. Tuesday, lawmakers got an update on how efforts to expand access to broadband is going.

Tuesday’s meeting with the Joint Bond Review Subcommittee was mostly focused on short-term solutions and a new mapping survey.

According to information provided by the Office of Regulatory Staff, they’ve received orders for about 80,000 mobile hotspots. Executive Director Nanette Edwards told the subcommittee they are exploring a more permanent solution with SCETV.

She said, “We’re looking at whether or not we can pull together a pilot project that can do some fixed wireless for areas that have zero internet service. To be candid, I don’t know how quickly we can put that together.”

Fixed wireless uses broadcast towers to transmit wireless internet signals to households.

For now, some SCETV towers are being used for datacasting in some counties. Officials have expanded the pilot program for datacasting to four school districts.

With the help of datacasting, instructional materials are transmitted to homes with the help of antenna signals. Students can receive the data on devices. Vice President of Education, Dr. Stephanie Frazier, said, she hopes to expand the program to more than 3,000 students in 2021.

She said, “A large part of the pilot process is making sure we have things the way that we need them. We anticipate that by the top of the year we should reach that 3 to 5 thousand students as quickly as the demand allows.”

The Office of Regulator Staff said they hope to have a new detailed mapping survey done by late November.

Copyright 2020 WIS. All rights reserved.