Governor McMaster announces new plan for students without internet access in SC

Fairfield and Jasper Counties, as well as York School District One, will first get to test out the program this fall

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — As schools across the state start back up, thousands of South Carolina students are still without internet access.

To bridge the digital divide, Gov. Henry McMaster (R-SC) announced a $1.3 million investment towards bringing these students lessons through a technique called “data-casting.”

Through a technique used for public safety when radio signals are jammed, up to 5,000 students without internet access can now receive encrypted lessons through SCETV’s broadcast signal.

“Data-casting is not a replacement for broadband. Instead, it is an intermediate solution until broadband can be expanded, and also this data-casting capability that we have at ETV can be expanded in other areas as well,” Gov. McMaster said in a press conference Wednesday.

Students in Fairfield County, Jasper County, and York School District One will be the first to access these lessons through data-casting. SCETV said these districts were chosen based on a formula that incorporated the number of students who may be without internet access.

If students are within SCETV’s broadcast reach (which is about 98% of the state), then they could even receive lessons on a cell phone.

“They will be able to click on something, and it will say ‘hey, you have new content’, almost like you have new mail, and they can click on the files that have been data-cast to them,” said Stephanie Frazier, the Vice President of Education for SCETV.

Even though state lawmakers are working on funding to give more people access to broadband, some say this data-casting program can help some students from falling through the cracks.

“It’s a step in the right direction, doesn’t solve all our problems. If there’s anything good that’s come out of this pandemic, it’s that everyone in the state is working to improve broadband capabilities for all citizens for South Carolinians,” said Molly Spearman, South Carolina’s Superintendent of Education.

SCETV officials say they are actively working with districts on ways for students to turn in their assignments once they receive them.

In addition to the $1.3 million investment from the state, South Carolina was one of 11 states to receive a federal grant through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for up to $2.2 million over three years to provide thousands of student internet receivers and laptops, as well as training and professional development.

Frazier said they will base their decision to expand this approach statewide depending on how well it goes in the three pilot districts.

Categories: Local News, State