MARION COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Students who can’t get online for school work have a new option in Marion County thanks to hotspots HTC installed.

HTC partnered with the Marion County School District and county leaders to bring internet access to rural areas. Wi-Fi hotspots are in the parking lots of the Saffold Community Center and the Centenary Community Center in Marion County. Residents can access the free Wi-Fi Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“We’re making tremendous progress with our broadband expansion efforts in Gresham, Britton’s Neck and Centenary,” said Von Todd, chief executive of corporate strategy and analytics for HTC. “By the end of this school year, we will have served more than 1,300 households that did not have broadband access prior to the onset of the pandemic.”

Justine Roberts owns the Performing Arts and Science Academy in Downtown Marion. She said it’s her goal for it to be the most innovative program in the community for the youth and she hopes to continue that now that her kids will have better access to the internet.

“It benefits not just my students but all the youth especially when they know we have accessibility to be able to go in a certain area and pick up the hotspot,” Roberts said.

Before the pandemic, she had 100 kids coming to the afterschool program and now because of CDC guidelines she has 45. Those kids and the instructors are left having to think out of the box because there wasn’t a strong Wi-Fi connection in the building.

“Without that Wi-Fi connection we were not able to do our virtual classes. So, it is definitely something we needed in the area so that we can continue to go virtual if we need so because it doesn’t look like the pandemic is getting any better,” Roberts said. “Now that we know that we have another place that we can go down the street I can put my kids on the bus, take them down the street and they can continue to be able to do their homework or access the internet,” Roberts continued.

HTC officials said they are committed to bridging the digital gap in Marion County, and are pleased to offer these hotspots as a temporary option for residents that currently lack access to the internet at home. This service is being offered while HTC’s crews work to bring fiber to hundreds of households throughout southern Marion County.

“So with HTC coming in and giving over 1,300 homes access and then setting up these two hotspots so that those people who don’t have access can easily travel to a local area to be able to get on internet means everything,” said Deborah D. Wimberly, director of public relations and special projects.

HTC Wi-Fi Hotspot Locations & Instructions

W.R. Saffold Community Center

6874 Highway 908

Gresham, SC

Centenary Community Center

4904 S. Highway 41-A

Marion, SC

When you park at one of the designated hotspots, look for the SSID “HTC Free WiFi”. No password is needed to access the Wi-Fi signal. Content restrictions will be applied and streaming video will not be allowed.