ORANGEBURG, S.C. — Aiken Electric Cooperative is one of 18 internet service providers statewide working on a $30 million project to expand broadband availability in 19 rural counties in South Carolina.
"For $49.95, they will be able to have 350 MPS download and upload speed," said Gary L. Stooksbury, Aiken Electric Cooperative's Chief Executive Officer. "It will be like they're in downtown Columbia."
They're one of six Orangeburg County internet service providers. The county got $7 million by itself. Aiken Electric's CEO says they will focus on servicing their customers in western Orangeburg County, including Springfield, North, and along Highway Three.
"We are in the process of extending high-speed broadband internet, and it will be fiber to the homes in this area," Stooksbury explained. "We are putting up a 288 fiber backbone that we are building to our North area into Orangeburg County that will be able to support our home project."
The move to expand broadband comes from the South Carolina Department of Commerce, which gave $65 million to help economic development and other improvements in eligible counties identified by the state legislature. The counties were picked based on population decline and poverty rate.
The first broadband construction reports are due to the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) by October 15th, 2021, and all projects are scheduled to be completed by October of next year.
"I can assure you we are working on the project as we speak, and it's a priority," Stooksbury said. "We will be done because we have so much more to do. We will have this done months before ahead of schedule."