New Berkeley Co. broadband initiative brings connection to rural communities

Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 4:10 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2023 at 7:18 PM EDT
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BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce is working to bring broadband internet centers to communities throughout the county to expand internet access for those in rural communities.

“This broadband expansion is going to be a huge game changer for us in this community,” Alvin Recreation Center Chairman Ed Vice says.

Berkeley County’s Chamber of Commerce began working on broadband expansion back in 2015 and currently has five internet centers throughout the county, but with this new initiative, additional resources will be available to more communities in need.

“One of the things that came out is that every resident in Berkeley County was not enjoying all the successes that we were having,” Berkeley Chamber of Commerce CEO Elaine Morgan says. “We went out and met with the community to find out what they needed, what did they want; and all of them wanted better education, better training and more health services.”

The goal of what the Chamber calls ‘Community Anchor Institutions’ will be connecting broadband internet access in rural communities with health and well-being, and education and training.

This means Trident telehealth computers will be available at community centers in rural areas of the county for those who may be too far away from a doctor’s office.

“They seek to elevate the opportunities for our residents who live in our rural communities; those residents are our patients,” Trident Health Vice President of Public Relations and Communications Rod Whiting says.

“If it’s access to health care through telehealth, or if it’s learning skills like how to apply for a job, or if it’s being comfortable with a computer, to help with their education, those are all important to us because they help build healthy communities,” he adds.

Volunteers will also be located at these centers to become digital navigators to help teach anyone about internet access and help people take classes for furthering their education or job training.

“What we have learned is that it’s the access point that opens the door for virtually every other opportunity for improvement in our community, that’s why broadband is so important,” Whiting says.

The program hopes to help communities like Alvin, South Carolina, where many of their senior residents cannot find transportation to important medical appointments.

“We want to use this program to help the people in the community to really reach their full potential, that’s the bottom line of why we built the facilities,” Vice says. “We want the people in the community to come out and use this facility, and reach down to their God-given talent, the full potential that they got in them, and that’s what we want.”

The first five centers will be located in Cainhoy, Alvin, Cross, Ridgeville and Jedburg, with the Chamber’s goal of opening the locations by the end of this year.

“Our overall goal is to have facilities every 15 to 20 miles, so that way, it won’t be a deterrent to anybody to get somewhere,” Morgan says.

To stay updated about when the broadband centers will open and any new updates to the project, visit the Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce’s’ website.