Pilot project helps expand broadband access in rural Allendale County

The South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff along with state, local and private-sector partners have launched a broadband project bringing Wi-Fi access to 1,000 homes in 60 days where no access existed before in rural Allendale County.

“We did two things for Allendale County, we provided free public Wi-Fi,” said Jim Stritzinger, Broadband Director of the ORS. “The second thing we did was we installed the first private LTE network in South Carolina." 

Through the CARES Act, the ORS was granted $50 Million for Broadband Infrastructure Programs. As part of this expansion of infrastructure, the ORS funded a $393,104 Allendale Broadband Pilot Project to expand broadband access in Allendale County.

“We are going to have a big, massive broadband program and it all started here in rural South Carolina,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia.

The project establishes multiple public Wi-Fi hubs and simultaneously deploys residential broadband service for families with K-12 students in Allendale County. Using local contractors, these hubs were set up at three different locations: Allendale Hampton Jasper Regional Library, USC Salkehatchie, and Allendale Elementary School. 

“Access to the internet is fundamental in improving student achievement. It opens doors to a wealth of information,” said Superintendent Margaret Gilmore of Allendale County. 

In addition to these Wi-Fi hubs, Revolution D, Inc. worked with SCETV to establish a private LTE fixed wireless network or Citizens broadband radio service (CBRS). 

“Only thirty percent of the students in the entire school district were connected (to internet) with laptops," Clyburn said.

Now that is no longer the case. This project is a model for future communities in South Carolina, as well as the nation, to look toward improving broadband infrastructure. 

“This is an example of many products and many services that can be provided to bridge the digital divide that exists not only in South Carolina, but throughout the rest of the Country,” added Nanette Edwards Deputy Director of the ORS. 

With this broadband infrastructure, Allendale County is now more connected than ever. Opening the doors for their community to access Education, Telehealth care, and much more. It is the beginning of progress to decrease the digital divide that is prevalent in rural communities throughout South Carolina and the nation.