DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Leaders in Dorchester County are working to get internet access to more homes in the community.

The county is implementing a program aimed at bringing broadband internet access to thousands of homes in rural areas that otherwise wouldn’t have strong internet access.

“You know, during the pandemic, we really saw the issue exacerbated because people were needing access to telework and for educational purposes, so as we started to look at the issue, an area we hadn’t really been involved in before, we saw that there was a big disparity in the rural parts of the county,” said Daniel Prentice, Deputy Administrator, Dorchester County.

County leaders said the $17.1 million investment is subsidized through matching funds provided by $8.5 million in federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Home Telecom and Palmetto Rural Telephone Cooperative will essentially match that with another $8.5 million.

It’s a plan that would build 325 miles of buried fiber serving 4,100 homes that do not currently have adequate access to high-speed internet.

“We’re trying to invest in the areas where we know we have the most population and the largest area of need through the grant county council approved last year,” Prentice said.

Leaders say it will take about three years to implement and will be built over five phases. Most of the properties will be in the rural northern area of the county to around South Dorchester. There will also be some homes with access near County Line Road.

“We’ve gotten electricity, you know, long since past – and we’re working on investing in water and sewer and now broadband, so it’s kind of coming together of all the utilities that are needed to run a household or to run a business successfully,” he said.

Dorchester County will discuss the plans with residents during a 6:00 p.m. meeting at the Shady Drove Family Life Center in St. George on Tuesday.