COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – Millions of federal, state and local dollars are being used for broadband expansion in South Carolina.

The state and internet service providers have spent the last two years working to close South Carolina’s digital divide.

Right now, the Office of Regulatory Staff’s South Carolina Broadband Office estimates there are about 181,715 households in South Carolina without access to high-speed internet.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), high-speed internet is at or above 25 Mbps for download and 3 Mbps for upload speed.

South Carolina Broadband Office Director Jim Stritzinger said by the end of this year the number of unserved homes in South Carolina will drop to 157,103. Estimates from the state Broadband Office show about an additional 51,000 South Carolinians may have access to high-speed internet by January 2023 at their home.

Even more broadband projects in South Carolina could soon be in the works.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers and the Governor signed off on allocating $400 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to the SC Broadband Office for “broadband infrastructure.”

Stritzinger said his office hopes to start awarding $180 million in grants to eligible internet service providers later this year.

“Making an investment is just the first part,” he said. “Broadband takes a while to actually complete construction but until you make an investment nothing improves. We’re moving the needle.”

Stritzinger said they’ve worked closely with providers to identify areas of need in South Carolina. He said providers are navigating a “complicated” supply chain because other states are also expanding broadband access.

The Office of Regulatory Staff is also taking input from South Carolinians on what parts of the state are unserved.