SC General Assembly approves up to $50M to bring internet to students

South Carolina News

FILE – This June 19, 2017 file photo shows a person working on a laptop in North Andover, Mass. The U.S. internet won’t get overloaded by spikes in traffic from the millions of Americans now working from home to discourage the spread of the new coronavirus, experts say. But connections could stumble for many if too many family members try to videoconference at the same time. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – The SC General Assembly recently passed legislation allocating federal funds received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to various state efforts. Among the designations was $50 million to be used by the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) for broadband mapping and planning, infrastructure, and mobile hotspots.

According to the legislation, ORS will work with the State Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education to “procure mobile hotspots and monthly service through December 2020.”

The services will be distributed to a minimum of 100,000 households with students attending a public or private K-12 school, or a public or private college/university/technical college.

To be eligible, the household must have “an annual income of 250% or less of federal poverty guidelines.” Priority will be given to “households in counties that contain a school district that has been defined by the Department of Education as having a poverty rate greater than or equal to 86%.”

Local districts/schools will be responsible for the distribution of the hotspots, and “ensuring that appropriate security measures are installed on each hotspot.”

The legislation also includes language directing contracts “for the mapping and infrastructure plans and mobile hotspots” be awarded “in the most expeditious manner possible,” although a date has not yet been confirmed.

Updated information will be available at this link.

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