WCBD News 2

Google partners with the Berkeley County School District to deploy WiFi-capable buses to rural communities

BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Google is taking some steps to help Berkeley County students improve their access to learning from home.

A partnership between the Berkeley County School District and tech-giant Google is designed to make sure every student has access to the internet to complete schoolwork.

“Different parts of South Carolina, especially in rural South Carolina, broadband is spotty or unobtainable,” said Lilyn Hester, Head of Southeast External Affairs for Google.

Each student has a Chrome book, but they need internet to use them for school.

“What we’ve done, as we’ve worked with the Berkeley County School System, is to make sure the kids who are living in rural communities under this COVID-19 response can receive broadband access where they are – through rolling hotspots.”

The rolling hotspots are just school buses that Google had previously outfitted to allow students to have internet access so they could do homework riding to or from school.

The signal around those buses can cover about 400 feet. That means students can simply go near the bus and access the internet even without getting on the bus, allowing social distancing.

“Those buses are able to go to the community and park in areas where kids are able to do their homework in a safe way,” explained Hester.

Since they cover 400 feet of area around the buses, they could put three or more buses around some communities and allow students to access the internet even in their home.

“Our hope is that because they have this access at home, that they’ll be using it to do homework, get their studies done and also to explore and open new doors to get excited about science, technology, engineering and math so that one day we can hire that future Googler.”

The Berkeley County School District is hoping to have those buses out as soon as possible, in the meantime, they do have hotspots available for those who need them.