How a lack of broadband internet access impacts law enforcement and healthcare in South Carolina

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – The coronavirus pandemic has revealed several limitations here in the state: one of the biggest is access to broadband internet.

South Carolina education isn’t the only area suffering from a lack of broadband internet access. The healthcare and law enforcement fields are also feeling the strain of not being connected.

Health care workers need reliable internet service to connect with patients, and not having that connection could leave many residents without primary health care.

“Both synchronously like video chats like we’re doing or asynchronously through things like patient monitoring,” said Dr. Kathryn King.

King went on to say, “We made this investment into telehealth to increase access to care, increase efficiency and to combat health care disparities. We don’t want to see an exasperation of those disparities where our citizens who didn’t have access to physical health don’t have access to telehealth care.”

The state’s criminal justice system also depends on broadband, using internet-based programs to transmit data.

“Every year we are going to be gathering more and more digital evidence that’s going to be a bigger part of our prosecutions,” said Duffie Stone, 14th circuit solicitor in South Carolina.

Strong connectivity can also increase law enforcement accountability.

For example, in an officer involved shooting – broadband can decrease the time from body camera to the prosecutor’s desk.

“The officers have to have to the body camera and that info has to get to the prosecutor immediately,” said Stone. “I’m the one that the people, the community, is looking to to answer what happened, and was it justified.”

More than 300 thousand South Carolina households don’t have access to broadband internet either because of accessibility or affordability.

The state is trying to address immediate needs for broadband which is connecting the close to 200 thousand South Carolina students without internet access.

However, long term it could take the state at least 5 years to offer broadband everywhere in the state.

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