- Beauty & Style
- Contact Us
Like Us, Follow Us
Your lifestyle, your quirk
South Carolina just passed a bill that makes it nearly impossible for local governments to set up their own broadband networks. That wouldn’t be such a problem, but the same Internet-providing companies who lobbied for the bill don’t offer their services in the rural areas the bill will affect.
Two rural counties in South Carolina received federal funding in 2010 to develop their own broadband networks. It was a necessary project, as South Carolina has one of the lowest Internet-adoption rates in the country, and those in rural areas who have Internet service are forced to choose between slow dial-up (that still exists?) or expensive satellite service. About 20% of residents in Orangeburg County are considered low-income, so satellite Internet is not an option for many. Internet access is crucial to finding jobs and accessing services and information. Businesses will be unlikely to relocate to a town without broadband Internet, and children without Internet access at home will have difficulty completing research for homework assignments. Therefore, local government in Oconee and Orangeburg counties sought federal funding to set up their own networks.
This isn’t the first time that local government has brought technology to their area. About 150 communities across the country have developed their own networks to help the 26 million Americans who don’t have access to high-speed Internet. They may have been inspired by areas that built their own power systems to provide their communities with affordable electricity about one hundred years ago. Unfortunately, South Carolina isn’t the first state to pass a bill to limit these rural developments: 18 other states have passed similar bills.
Internet providers didn’t like the competition of these county networks despite the fact that they don’t offer high-speed Internet in the area. Most large Internet providers don’t offer broadband in rural areas because it simply isn’t profitable. Even though they have no broadband presence in the area and no plans to expand he network to these counties, these large corporations were worried that local networks would have an unfair advantage in the area. Lawmakers who supported the bill have been getting large donations from Internet providers since last January. According to the Huffington Post, AT&T, Time Warner, and CenturyLink contributed $146,000 to South Carolina lawmakers who supported the bill. In North Carolina, where a similar bill was passed, lawmakers who supported the bill received 76% more funding from telecom companies than lawmakers who voted against it.
South Carolina’s new bill won’t stop development on the networks that have already been started, but expansion will be nearly out of the question. For local government to create a network, they first have to prove that the area isn’t served by a broadband provider already. Unfortunately, the definition of “served” in the bill means that the Internet can reach speeds of 190 kilobits per second, which isn’t really broadband at all. According to the Huffington Post, that is slower than the FCC’s definition of broadband.
Since telecom and cable companies are unlikely to expand to rural areas due to the lack of profit, it looks like many rural areas are doomed to slow Internet for the time being. Across the country, typically only 60% of households have Internet access at home, and thanks to these restrictions, it doesn’t look that statistic will increase any time soon.