A portion of the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) was allocated for broadband infrastructure. Expansion of broadband infrastructure emphasized services to rural communities and communities with a high prevalence of COVID-19 or with demographic characteristics consistent with risk factors for COVID-19. Reimbursable expenditures for infrastructure expansion were necessary for the COVID-19 public health emergency and helped to increase capacity for distance learning, telework, or telehealth.
The ORS accepted applications through August 14, 2020. Overall, 78 applications received over $26.4 million for the expansion of broadband infrastructure in South Carolina.
The ORS engaged Revolution D, Inc. to identify areas of the state that are unserved, impacted by COVID-19, and that if broadband were available, would support distance learning, telehealth, and/or teleworking.
Revolution D identified approximately 550 areas as having a substantial need for broadband improvement. Of those, approximately 150 areas were designated as priority areas (Priority Program Targets). These priority areas were established based on demographic, socioeconomic, and other attributes (e.g., low-moderate income communities).
To advance deployment of broadband to unserved areas during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ORS partnered with SCETV, South Carolina Department of Education, University of South Carolina (USC) Salkehatchie, Allendale County School District, Allendale Hampton Jasper Regional Library, Town of Allendale, SouthernCarolina Alliance, and Revolution D, Inc. to launch a pilot program allowing free Wi-Fi to students and/or the public together with residential broadband service in Allendale County. Project partners worked with Palmetto Rural Telephone Cooperative to get fiber backhaul and Dominion Energy to get electricity to the SCETV towers located in Allendale County. Equipment was installed on the towers that will provide residents with fixed wireless (citizen broadband radio service) access to broadband service.