Clyburn, Biden administration officials tout broadband investments during infrastructure law tour

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) – South Carolina hopes everyone in the state will be connected to high-speed internet at home and at work within the next few years, thanks in large part to a major influx of money from the federal government.

According to the South Carolina Broadband Office, which oversees state broadband expansion and subsidies, about one in 10 South Carolinas lacks such connectivity.

Between two major laws from the Biden administration, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the American Rescue Plan Act, South Carolina will receive about half a billion dollars to bring broadband to more people. The Broadband Office currently estimates that it will cost over $600 million to connect everyone.

For Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn, who represents large swathes of rural parts of the state in his congressional district of Columbia in Charleston, the payoff from that investment can’t come soon enough.

“The governor assured me his goal was to build every residence and every business in three to five years,” Clyburn said.

The longtime congressman, South Carolina’s only current Democrat on Capitol Hill, joined White House Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Administrator of EPA Michael Regan Friday in Orangeburg, as part of a three-week, 30-state tour. in which Biden administration officials promote the Infrastructure Act, which passed Congress with bipartisan support in 2021.

Along with other events to discuss the administration’s investment in historically black colleges and universities and Clean Water Infrastructure Act allocations, the group stopped by the County Library in ‘Orangeburg to highlight the law’s emphasis on Internet access. Broadband expansion, particularly in rural areas, has been a key impetus for Clyburn over the years.

“Nowadays, if you don’t have broadband, you can’t go to school, you can’t go to the doctor, you can’t fill out online applications, and it’s time to fill the digital divide, close it for everyone and close it once and for all,” Raimondo told reporters.

As of September 2021, more than 427,000 South Carolina residents have little or no internet access at home, representing approximately 8.3% of the state’s population. This includes nearly 50,000 K-12 students across the state in public schools.

The South Carolina Broadband Office reports that more than 220,000 households fall into this category.

Raimondo said part of the broadband allocations from the Infrastructure Act will go to laying fiber, and another part will go to training workers to do so, creating jobs.

According to Raimondo, the law also provides money for low-income Americans to receive a $30-a-month voucher for internet service, and every carrier that receives government money from the law will have to make that service affordable. .

“So we’re not going to give a carrier a dime unless they show us, prove to us, certify that they’re going to offer an affordable plan as part of their offerings, and we’ll work with them to define what is affordable,” Raimondo said.

According to the White House, the infrastructure law money has already flowed to states and more than 200,000 South Carolinas are already enrolled in the Affordable Broadband Voucher program.

“The goal, as the president said, is to get the money to the ground. It’s actually here,” Landrieu said.

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