CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- South Carolina is set to receive half a billion dollars as part of a nationwide effort to ensure all Americans have access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet service.
The Palmetto State will be awarded $551.5 million from the Biden Administration’s $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program as part of the “Internet for All” initiative, the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced Monday.
The announcement comes as President Biden pledged that every household in the nation would have access to high-speed internet by 2030 using cables made in the United States, calling the service an “absolute necessity.”
Currently, NTIA estimates that about 119,580 households and small businesses in South Carolina lack access to a high-speed internet connection.
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), high-speed internet is at or above 25 Mbps for download and 3 Mbps for upload speed.
“You take it for granted in some of our bigger cities how great the service is, but there’s a huge disparity so we want to get that fixed,” South Carolina Broadband Office Director Jim Stritzinger said. “We feel great urgency to get it done.”
According to NTIA, the BEAD funding will be used primarily to deploy or upgrade broadband networks, but a portion may also be used on broadband adoption, training, and workforce development efforts, among other uses.
Stritzinger said the agency expects the BEAD money to become available in 2025.
“We will be able to invest in, of course, residential homes, businesses, and community anchor institutions which are schools, libraries, police stations, and fire stations,” Stritzinger said.
The BEAD funding is just the latest investment toward the goal of providing every South Carolinian with reliable internet connectivity.
Last 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 is still in the process of deploying more than $250 million from that funding to help close the digital divide.
“We’re in great shape in South Carolina. We’re moving quickly and we have a lot of financial resources right now,” he said. “So we’re not waiting for BEAD, we are making ARPA money come to life on a daily basis right now.”
More information about applying for the South Carolina Broadband Office’s current open grant round can be found here.
You can also learn more about broadband expansion efforts in South Carolina, including by visiting scdigitaldrive.org.