Better internet the goal of Vision Greenwood's broadband campaign – Index-Journal

Please purchase a subscription to read our premium content. If you have a subscription, please log in or sign up for an account on our website to continue.
Please log in, or sign up for a new account to continue reading.
Thank you for reading! We hope that you continue to enjoy our free content.
Welcome! We hope that you enjoy our free content.
Thank you for reading! On your next view you will be asked to log in to your subscriber account or create an account and subscribepurchase a subscription to continue reading.
Thank you for reading! On your next view you will be asked to log in to your subscriber account or create an account and subscribepurchase a subscription to continue reading.
Thank you for signing in! We hope that you continue to enjoy our free content.
Partly cloudy this morning, then becoming cloudy during the afternoon. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 83F. Winds light and variable..
Cloudy skies this evening. A few showers developing late. Low 64F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 40%.
Updated: October 3, 2021 @ 5:40 am
Kay Self speaks with WCTEL’s Stephen Taylor after Thursday’s meeting of the Vision Greenwood Broadband Task Force.
Tom Allen, chief of broadband, communications and safety at the state Office of Regulatory Staff, speaks with a WCTEL representative Thursday evening, following a meeting of the Vision Greenwood Broadband Task Force.
Vision Greenwood Executive Director Kay Self and state Sen. Billy Garrett answer questions about the group’s efforts to assess the county’s broadband infrastructure needs.

Kay Self speaks with WCTEL’s Stephen Taylor after Thursday’s meeting of the Vision Greenwood Broadband Task Force.
Tom Allen, chief of broadband, communications and safety at the state Office of Regulatory Staff, speaks with a WCTEL representative Thursday evening, following a meeting of the Vision Greenwood Broadband Task Force.
Vision Greenwood Executive Director Kay Self and state Sen. Billy Garrett answer questions about the group’s efforts to assess the county’s broadband infrastructure needs.
Fast, reliable broadband internet across Greenwood County — that’s the goal of Vision Greenwood’s broadband task force, but the group needs input from residents to know where service is lacking.
Vision Greenwood, a nonprofit rebranded from the Foundation for a Greater Greenwood County, is trying to get broadband internet throughout the county. The first step is finding out what parts of the county lack quality internet services and where people don’t have access or can’t afford internet service at all.
At a task force meeting Thursday, Vision Greenwood Executive Director Kay Self shared with attendees what efforts they’ve made to map out these areas of need — as well as the hurdles the group has faced.
Vision Greenwood partnered with Minnesota-based company Geo Partners. Through Geo Partners, Vision Greenwood is trying to get county residents to run internet speed tests at their homes. These tests gather information on how fast a person’s internet service is, then Geo Partners puts a pin in a virtual map of Greenwood County that signifies the location of that person’s internet service and the quality of their internet speed.
Knowing where 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 officials to design a plan addressing 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 completed. Anyone can complete an internet speed test at visiongreenwood.org by clicking the “Closing the gap” box in the bottom-right corner. People without access to broadband may visit the website from any internet-accessing device and complete a brief survey to have their home address listed as having no internet service.
“One of the things we’ve learned out of the pandemic is that digital infrastructure is so important — from virtual duction to telemedicine, even to E-commerce,” Self said. “Digital infrastructure is the way of the future, and we want to be on the cutting edge.”
So far, test mapping has shown that within Greenwood’s city limits, people are fairly well-served, but the northern and southern parts of the county have low-quality services, with some sections showing no internet service at all. Mark Allison’s County Council District 2 area, encompassing much of the southern part of Greenwood County, showed swathes of poor internet service, said Glenn Fishbine, of Geo Partners.
Some lakeside areas in the northern part of the county also had poor service, he said, as did areas in and around Promised Land and other rural sections. But with so few data points currently, it’s hard to pinpoint the service borders.
“Even though we can pretty well declare an area like this is not doing well, we really can’t identify its boundaries,” Fishbine said. “We’re making sure focusing on people who don’t have those quality 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 lack internet service. Ware Shoals schools asked students to take the test at home, and Self said she’s working with County Council officials to tap into their connections with local leaders in each district.
“Literally, we’re using that data to draw borders between lower-quality services here and better 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 safety at the state Office of Regulatory Staff, joined the task force meeting Thursday to share some of the state’s priorities and federal funds coming for internet infrastructure. Some of the projects funded earlier in the year through the CARES Act went incomplete, but recently received an extension, including investment in WCTEL’s networks.
About $30 million went toward other rural counties for broadband expansions, but Allen said Greenwood didn’t see those funds. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has about $290 million in grants available, and Allen said the state applied for about $15 million of those funds for main street revitalizations, including offering broadband and free public wireless internet in six small towns. No towns in Greenwood County qualified for this project.
State officials estimated it would cost about $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 for the rest of the state in how to identify areas of most need.
“If we can get them this data, they’ll be in a better position to help us with our needs,” state Sen. Billy Garrett said at the meeting. “I think our first obligation should be and has been to our students. It doesn’t do any good if you can’t pay for it. It doesn’t do any good if you don’t have the infrastructure.”
Contact staff writer Damian Dominguez at 864-634-7548 or follow on Twitter @IJDDOMINGUEZ.
2021 IJ College Pickoff
2021-2022 District Calendars/Parent Guides are here!
NEWSPAPER ROUTES available in ALL AREAS!

source