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Kershaw County joins broadband expansion effort

Posted: May 3, 2013 5:04 p.m.
Updated: May 6, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Community leaders from Kershaw County gathered April 30 with Connect South Carolina at the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce to discuss a broadband expansion effort. The program is designed with goals to bridge the technology gap, boost the economy and also prepare the ground for innovations.

“The Connected Community Engagement Program entails building a comprehensive Technology Action Plan for developing a technology-ready community by reviewing the landscape, developing regional partnerships, establishing local teams and conducting a thorough community assessment,” according to a press release from Connect SC about the project.

“You can’t have economic growth if you’re not connected to the world,” Economic Development Director Peggy McLean said.

Connect SC Community Technology Advisor Lindsay Conrad said broadband -- high speed Internet service could mean anything from DSL cable to fixed wireless internet connections.

The expansion effort would focus on creating high speed Internet access to everyone in the county as well as making sure citizens know how to use it. As of now, Kershaw County has “lots of great coverage” in terms of cable and mobile broadband in more urban area with less coverage in rural parts of the county, Conrad said. The expansion effort would act as an advocate on behalf of citizens in the those parts of the county that are not served or are underserved in terms of broadband connections.

Conrad presented a slideshow featuring ways in which broadband expansion could positively affect the area. Some of the improvements she discussed included healthcare, education, government and creating a more effective level of economic development.

After the initial presentation, attendees broke into three groups -- access, adoption and use -- focusing on how their particular field could benefit or currently does benefit from broadband connections. They were then asked to answer a series of questions: Where are the public computer centers in the county? What applications are currently in place utilizing broadband technology in the economic development, education, healthcare and government sectors? Who is providing digital literacy training in the community?

Participants brought up the use of broadband for online activities such as banking, job applications, classes and job searching.

Representatives from the city of Camden were in attendance including Mayor Tony Scully and Camden City councilwomen Laurie Parks and Alfred Mae Drakeford. They said the city of Camden uses broadband in conjunction with its website, featuring a way for citizens to pay utility bills online. All governmental sections have websites and the city of Camden has a smartphone app as well, they said.

Parks brought up the issue of elderly citizens staying away from broadband usage because she feels as if they are “intimidated by the process.”

The subject of students using broadband was brought up as well. Although students from the county’s high schools have iPads and laptops provided by the district, Parks said that when they leave school, not all may have access to broadband service.

Representatives from various other sectors of the community included public safety departments, broadband providers, healthcare administrators, the school district and the county library.

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