Access to high-speed internet: South Carolina has the funding, now what?
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina is one step closer toward closing the digital divide after President Biden’s recent announcement.
On Monday, President Joe Biden pledged that every household in the nation would have access to high-speed internet by 2030 using cables made in the U.S.
Following the announcement, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn announced $551 million will go toward expanding internet connectivity in South Carolina.
Local internet connectivity advocates said the work doesn’t stop at the funding, and that there are many factors that have to be considered while working to get a community fully connected to the internet.
“It can’t end there,” Paola Gutiérrez, Director of External Engagement at the South Carolina Office of Rural Health, said. “We’ve got this wonderful grant and we’re not finished.”
Gutiérrez said we need to consider how many people will be able to take advantage of this broadband expansion. She says getting an internet connection is step one.
“To be a full participating member in our society, you have to have access to the internet,” Stacey Lindbergh, Project Manager of the Lowcountry Digital Equity Coalition, said.
Lindbergh said to use the internet successfully, you also need access to a working device, be able to afford monthly internet payments, and know how to navigate the internet successfully.
She said internet access touches every aspect of our life, from education, to healthcare, to social interaction.
“I think that’s not a question anymore when you look at all the things you use day-to-day,” Lindbergh said.
She said the Affordable Connectivity Program could be an option for people who struggle to afford monthly internet payments.
The program provides $30 a month for internet fees to eligible households, including those at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, or who qualify for other federal assistance programs like SNAP, WIC or free and reduced lunch.
But she said the program is relatively underused.
“So many people that are eligible don’t know they are eligible or know about the program,” Lindbergh said.
Individuals can enroll to the Affordable Connectivity Program by going to GetInternet.gov to submit an application or print a mail-in application. For assistance contact the Affordable Connectivity Program Support Center at 877-384- 2575, or email ACPSupport@usac.org
To learn about the Lowcountry Digital Equity Coalition’s training on how you can assist individuals enroll in Affordable Connectivity Program, contact Lindbergh at Stacey@tricountycradletocareer.org.
For more outreach resources, click here.
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