RICHLAND COUNTY, S.C. — Richland County plans to help boost web access for Southeast Richland with 'Dual Project,' after the lack of access became emphasized during the COVID-19 health crisis.
Richland County Council voted on Tuesday to use $85,000 from the County’s general fund to install two miles of fiber conduit in the area as work continues on the Southeast Richland Water & Sewer Systems Expansion Project.
This vote is the first step toward helping some Southeast Richland residents gain access to broadband, according to the county.
Data from the Federal Communications Commission show that about 10,300 County residents do not have broadband, with the majority in Southeast Richland.
This lack of internet access and need for it has been emphasized by the COVID-19 health crisis, as many students students in Southeast Richland cannot access school assignments online and vulnerable senior citizens
"If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it’s that access to fiber optics is critically important for students and seniors at this time,” said Councilwoman Dalhi Myers, who represents District 10.
The projec, when completed, could extend broadband to more than 1,000 residents in Southeast Richland.
With the installation, Myers said, “We would be well down the road to making Richland County one of the first counties in South Carolina to have full fiber optic accessibility.”
The County will install the first two miles of conduit, with hopes that a broadband service provider will take over the project and lay the remaining 28 miles.
Installing for fiber optic cables while the water and sewer project is underway points to potential operational and financial savings for the County, as the two utilities can be buried together. If the interested broadband provider picks up the project, the County could save more than $1 million in contracting fees, according to the County.
There has not been a date set to begin the installation, which is expected to take a month.
Construction on the water and sewer project began April 15 and is slated for completion in summer 2021.