GRESHAM, S.C. (WBTW) — Horry Telephone Cooperative announced a project Tuesday that’s expanding broadband access to hundreds of locations in rural parts of Marion County.
“This, like so many things today, are a team effort,” HTC CEO Mike Hagg said during a news conference Tuesday. “And with a team effort, there’s a lot we can accomplish. I’m very proud to be part of this. And HTC is proud to be part of this community.”
The project is a three million dollar investment and expands access to areas along Highways 378, 908 and 41. It’s 43 route miles of fiber-optic cable and will provide access for around 600 locations.
“We must have broadband in our rural areas if we expect for our rural areas to grow,” Senator Kent Williams said during the announcement.
Half of the project is being funded through a grant from the South Carolina Broadband Infrastructure Program. HTC matched the 1.5 million dollar grant. These grants are funded through the CARES Act.
“HTC is one of 14 companies that’s participating in the Broadband Infrastructure Program,” Office of Regulatory Staff Executive Director Nanette Edwards said. “That December deadline is a tough deadline.”
Leaders spoke about the added need for broadband access during the pandemic. HTC said nearly 30 percent of Marion County residents lack access to high speed internet.
That can get in the way of telehealth services, or virtual education.
“For some of our students that are in areas and rural communities such as this, we still have to provide them with paper, pencil type work,” Marion County School District Superintendent Dr. Kandace Bethea said. “We want to make sure they have a level playing field and that’s what this does.”
HTC said it hopes more funding will come down to help it to continue to expand access in Marion County. This project is set to be done in December, with many already connected.
You can learn if you’re in HTC’s new service area by clicking here.