Clyburn expects Biden to tout broadband investment during visit to Orangeburg
Some Orangeburg residents travel for more than an hour to access reliable internet
ORANGEBURG, S.C. (WIS) - Less than five minutes away from where President Joe Biden will be speaking Friday, some South Carolinians are waiting to feel the impacts of a bill he recently signed into law.
Rep. James Clyburn (D-House Majority Whip) told reporters Wednesday one of the reasons he invited the President to speak at his alma mater is so Biden can promote the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Specifically, Clyburn wants the President to use his time in his district to tout the $100 million dollars that will be coming to South Carolina to expand broadband access.
“Broadband has always been my big thing so I want you to come to South Carolina and do one about broadband,” Clyburn remembers telling President Biden.
Orangeburg County residents sometimes travel for more than an hour to the library to get access to reliable internet or learn how to use a computer, according to county staff.
“There are places in the county, unfortunately, where even if you have the money to pay for [broadband], you can’t access it because the lines aren’t there,” Orangeburg County Library Director Anna T. Zacherl said. “Financial literacy is also a huge barrier,” she added
Zacherl said young children, students, and adults will come to the library at all hours of the day, even when it’s closed, to access the internet.
“When we take tests that have deadlines, where you have 30 minutes or an hour, let’s say the wifi goes out and I get a bad grade because of the wifi connection. So, we go to the library so we don’t have to worry about those problems,” said college student Tracy Wilson.
Zacherl remembers a time when she would get calls from an alarm company because someone had tripped the alarm late at night, but later learned it was just people leaning on the doors while trying to do homework or download books.
“The schools have been trying to fill the bill by trying to send [students] home with devices [to access the internet], but those devices work off a cellular network and if the cellular network is not strong enough, or if the devices is faulty in some way, then children can’t get what they need,” Zacherl explained.
She said other than people who do farm work or are entirely self-sufficient, there is no way to live without the internet nowadays but so many people are put in a position where they are forced to try because they don’t live in a densely populated area.
“If the internet is not a part of your daily life, then you have someone who is planning your life for you,” Zacherl said. “Scheduling your appointments, depositing your money…doing all those things.”
She said her staff focuses a lot on digital literacy when people come in looking for help because so many people who don’t have regular access to the internet also don’t know how to use it once it’s available.
The library employs social workers, experts trained in teaching basic computing, and others to make sure when people come to the library looking for assistance opening a bank account, applying for a job, or getting federal assistance, they are given all the tools they need to succeed.
Zacherl says for many of these children the internet, connections, and the education the library provides can save lives.
“We are in a war, legitimately, for the lives of these children, when it comes to gang pressure, when it comes to kids dropping out of school, you have very little options if you drop out of school and most of them are illegal. So unless we get them when they are young, get them into a library, and show them what they can really do in their life, we are going to lose them.”
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