Several Marlboro County residents struggle with poor service and slow internet speeds that make competing in a digital era difficult per County Administrator, Ron Munneryln. He described the coverage as being similar to dial-up.
“We understand that we’re a low population density kind of area. People make investments based on that but for rural areas to grow, and to have what we need, we have to find a way to overcome that,” Munneryln said.
In 2017, the population in Marlboro County was estimated at 26,825. Munneryln said the number of internet coverage complaints have increased over the last few years. As a result, County Council made it a priority to connect with internet providers and state entities to find a solution.
“We feel that it’s very important in education and in attracting new citizens. Normal daily activities are dependent on it, so it’s almost like electricity is now,” he said.
South Carolina lawmakers are already working to address the broadband problem in rural areas across the state. In January, Bill 3780 was introduced to help those counties access technology with help from grants.
Applicants would need to demonstrate that local residents, governments, businesses, and institutions support the project. According to the bill, state officials could also take back the money if internet providers fail to bring better service.
To attain a strong internet signal in Marlboro County, many people in the area have to leave the comfort of their homes. Local resident Gregory Frazier said he uses the Marian Wright Edelman Public Library as his internet back-up.
“It’s a lot for me to go up there. To leave my house, just to use the internet,” Frazier said.
Ulysses Sullivan is a business owner in Bennettsville. He said the Bill would help the county stay in tune with the changing times.
“Internet access is very important especially in our times of technology. Everything is so social media and technology based. That’s our way of communicating now and with those areas of connection broken, it really affects not only the adults but as well as the children,” Sullivan said.