Better Internet, Vision Greenwood’s Broadband Campaign Goal | New

Fast and reliable broadband internet in Greenwood County – this is the goal of the Vision Greenwood Broadband Task Force, but the group needs input from residents to find out where service is lacking.

Vision Greenwood, a renowned nonprofit organization of the Foundation for a Greater Greenwood County, is trying to get high-speed internet access throughout the county. The first step is to find out which parts of the county lack quality Internet service and where people do not have access or cannot afford Internet service at all.

At a working group meeting on Thursday, Vision Greenwood executive director Kay Self explained to attendees their efforts to define these areas of need, as well as the obstacles the group has faced.

Vision Greenwood has partnered with Geo Partners of Minnesota. Through Geo Partners, Vision Greenwood is trying to get county residents to perform internet speed tests in their homes. These tests collect information about the speed of a person’s Internet service, then Geo Partners places a pin on a virtual map of Greenwood County that shows the location of that person’s Internet service and the quality of their Internet speed.

Knowing where the problems are is the first step in designing solutions, Self said. If Vision Greenwood can get at least 1,200 speed tests – its goal is 1,800 – the resulting data will allow local authorities to design a plan to meet local Internet needs. Having a detailed plan, Self said, puts Greenwood in a better position to apply for federal and state infrastructure grants to fund these improvements.

As of Thursday evening, only 619 speed tests had been carried out. Anyone can take an Internet speed test at by clicking on the “Close the gap” box in the lower right corner. People without broadband access can visit the website from any device that has internet access and complete a short survey to have their home address listed as having no internet service.

“One of the things we’ve learned from the pandemic is that digital infrastructure is so important – from virtual reduction to telemedicine, even e-commerce,” Self said. “Digital infrastructures are the way of the future and we want to be at the cutting edge of technology. “

So far, mapping tests have shown that within the city limits of Greenwood people are fairly well served, but the northern and southern parts of the county have poor service, with some sections showing no service. Internet. The Mark Allison County Council District 2 area, encompassing much of southern Greenwood County, has shown swathes of poor internet service, said Glenn Fishbine, of Geo Partners.

Some lakefront areas in the northern part of the county also had poor service, he said, as did areas in and around the Promised Land and other rural sections. But with so few data points currently, it is difficult to determine the boundaries of the service.

“While we can very well state that an area like this is not doing well, we really can’t identify its boundaries,” Fishbine said. “We make sure we focus on the people who don’t have these great services. “

Self said Vision Greenwood has been brainstorming ideas on how to get more people in rural areas to take the speed test or submit their address if they don’t have internet service. Schools in Ware Shoals have asked students to take the test at home, and Self said she is working with county council officials to tap into their relationships with local leaders in each district.

“Literally, we use this data to draw the lines between lower quality services here and higher quality services there,” Fishbine said. “We will have a very strong case for bringing money into this community from federal or even state sources.”

Tom Allen, chief of broadband, communications and security at the Office of State Regulatory Personnel, joined the task force meeting on Thursday to share some of the priorities for the state and federal funds to come for Internet infrastructure. Some of the projects funded earlier in the year through the CARES Act remained unfinished, but recently received an extension, including an investment in WCTEL’s networks.

About $ 30 million went to other rural counties for broadband expansion, but Allen said Greenwood had not seen those funds. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has about $ 290 million in grants, and Allen said the state has requested about $ 15 million of those funds for the revitalization of main streets, including the ‘provides free public high-speed and wireless Internet access in six small towns. No city in Greenwood County qualified for this project.

State officials estimated it would cost around $ 691 million to expand broadband to underserved areas of the state. Allen said the state estimates about $ 200 million of that cost will come from private funding. He said he hopes Vision Greenwood’s mapping efforts with Geo Partners can be an example to the rest of the state on how to identify areas most in need.

“If we can get them this data, they will be in a better position to help us with our needs,” Senator Billy Garrett said at the meeting. “I think our first obligation should be and has been to our students. It’s no good if you can’t pay for it. It’s no use if you don’t have the infrastructure.

Contact editor-in-chief Damian Dominguez at 864-634-7548 or follow us on Twitter @IJDDOMINGUEZ.

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