AP NEWS

Aiken, Edgefield areas suffer internet access issues, S.C. Senate majority leader says

January 5, 2019

During a Thursday afternoon panel discussion in Columbia, S.C. Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey said internet access – or lack thereof, more specifically – remains a major concern in the state.

And while rural areas feel the pain most acutely, the greater Aiken and Edgefield areas are not immune, Massey said in a follow-up interview.

The Edgefield Republican described internet as “essential infrastructure” nowadays akin to bridges and roads, water and sewer.

As of September 2018, nearly 12,000 Aiken County residents lacked access to even the most basic internet service, according to a connectivity study prepared by the Center for Applied Innovation and Advanced Analytics.

“It’s a huge issue,” Massey said.

Proper internet access – measured against 25 mbps download, 3 mbps upload speeds – in Aiken County dissipates north and east of Williston, north of Wagener Road and on both sides of I-20 headed toward the county line.

The cities of Aiken and North Augusta are notable internet hotspots.

Massey, who at multiple points acknowledged the expenses related to broadband buildout, believes internet access is both an economic and an education issue.

Without decent internet, let alone high-speed internet, an area can’t entice industry and will struggle to be lucratively developed, Massey argued. The same circumstances can stymie remote and virtual learning opportunities, he continued.

“It’s just an essential part of business today,” the majority leader said of the internet, later adding: “It’s just becoming part of everyday life.”

In terms of answers or fixes, it’s complicated, Massey said. But help from utilities – phone companies, cable networks, et cetera, according to Massey – could help things along.

Burying and installing internet fiber cable costs about $30,000 per mile, according to Jim Stritzinger, who led the aforementioned connectivity study.

In October 2018, Economic Development Partnership President and CEO Will Williams said the business-oriented nonprofit would examine the region’s internet woes.

The EDP operates throughout Aiken, Edgefield, Saluda and McCormick counties.