Creating a Foundation of Digital Equity in South Carolina
Friday, February 9, 2024
Creating a Foundation of Digital Equity in South Carolina
All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico are currently working on digital equity plans. As they release draft plans seeking public feedback, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is sharing summaries focused on how states define their digital divides and their vision for reaching digital equity.
The South Carolina Digital Opportunity Department (DOD) has released its draft Digital Equity Plan. Addressing digital equity gaps in affordable service, devices, and digital skills is critical to ensuring that all South Carolinians have the opportunity to thrive in an economically competitive digital world. With this in mind, the draft Digital Equity Plan details the strategies the DOD will take to create a better foundation of digital equity in South Carolina.
South Carolina's Vision of Digital Equity
Based on existing conditions and the perspectives shared by stakeholders across South Carolina, the DOD has developed the following statement describing its vision of the future state of Digital Equity. This vision statement will be the north star for the DOD and its Digital Equity activities and inform objectives, strategies, and investments moving forward:
Our vision is for all South Carolinians to have access to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet, and to gain the necessary skills to benefit from this technology.
The vision for Digital Equity recognizes that South Carolinians have different backgrounds, cultures, needs and goals. How they choose to utilize broadband will vary from person to person and community to community, but through the Digital Equity Plan, South Carolina hopes to provide a foundation of access, affordability, and digital skills that will allow all South Carolinians to have the option to determine how they will implement their digital skills. In turn, this will strengthen South Carolina by creating a state where residents and businesses have the infrastructure and knowledge to support expanded economic opportunity in the 21st century.
Covered Populations and Barriers to Digital Equity
Although access and affordability were the two biggest barriers to broadband adoption, the dimension of overall needs varies across covered populations. In developing the Digital Equity Plan, the DOD surveyed and directly engaged individuals from across South Carolina to better understand their specific needs and identify opportunities to address these needs. As the broadband network buildout is ongoing and conditions continue to change, the DOD will continue analyzing data, surveying, and engaging with covered populations to develop programs to address needs discussed throughout this plan.
Key barriers for each covereed population include:
Individuals who live in low-income households
According to the U.S. Census American Community Survey (ACS), there were 1,204,075 low-income individuals located across South Carolina in 2021, making up 24 percent of the total population. Urban areas tend to have the highest total number of low-income households, but rural areas have the highest concentration of low-income households by percentage.
Low-income individuals are less likely to have a fixed Broadband subscription. Not having a digital device reduces the access low-income individuals have to all the different activities or information you can access online. Low-income individuals have a much lower rate of broadband adoption than the overall population. Only 54 percent of low-income individuals have fixed Broadband compared to 67 percent overall, suggesting accessibility and/or affordability issues that are preventing low-income individuals from accessing fixed broadband.
Low-income households struggle to pay for internet services. According to our statewide survey, both low-income individuals and the general South Carolina population report that their number one reason for not having internet at home is that the cost is too high. Sixty-two percent of low-income individuals reported cost is their number one reason not to have internet, compared to 57 percent of the overall population, which unsurprisingly indicates that low-income individuals face greater challenges affording broadband service.
Low-income individuals are less likely to have a desktop or laptop. Low-income individuals are less likely to have a desktop or laptop at home, with 41 percent reporting no desktop or laptop compared to 26 percent of the overall population. While many of these individuals have smartphones that can access the internet, not having a desktop or laptop generally makes it more difficult to use the internet to perform complex tasks. A smartphone is adequate for some tasks, but things like completing research, writing a paper for school, creating a resume, applying to jobs online and other activities are much more challenging without access to a desktop or laptop. Low-income individuals might not be able to engage with these activities, even if they really want to, without a digital device. Lacking broadband service at home, many low-income individuals (17%) access the internet outside of the home at locations such as a library, school, or other facility. This suggests that while low-income individuals do need internet access, it may currently be easier and more affordable for them to access the internet outside of the home rather than subscribing to a monthly internet service.
Low-income individuals without internet struggle to access education and other vital services. A combination of less access to broadband and fewer devices compared to the overall population means that low-income individuals have difficulty accessing online services. Many stakeholders pointed out that access to the internet is more than just social media or streaming services and can be used to connect an individual or household to job opportunities, education, benefits applications, telehealth services and more. A range of stakeholders, from healthcare facilities to state agencies to nonprofits, reported trying to move services online to make them more widely accessible by South Carolinians only to realize that many individuals cannot access these services because of a lack of access or a device. Low-income individuals could be left behind if they do not have adequate access to these kinds of services that could positively impact their opportunities.
According to ACS, there were 1,243,880 aging individuals in South Carolina in 2021, composing 24 percent of the overall population. Aging individuals are relatively evenly distributed across the state as a share of county populations.
Some aging individuals cannot afford home internet services. Although the aging population reports having no internet access because the cost is too high at almost the same rate as average South Carolinians (56% and 57%, respectively), the fact that over half of respondents indicated that cost was a primary factor indicates that affordability is a major challenge. Being unable to afford broadband services reduces adoption among aging individuals, which limits access to things important to this audience, like telehealth or social connections with family. Additional marketing efforts from ISPs regarding the ACP or expanding efforts like nonprofit Palmetto Care Connections (PCC) that provide a device, services, and digital literacy training could eliminate or reduce cost barriers for this population.
Aging individuals can be less comfortable using the internet compared to other age groups. Even if having internet access might be useful, aging individuals sometimes avoid it because of the steep learning curve or unfamiliarity with technology. Stakeholders reported this can be especially challenging for aging individuals if they do not have a trusted source of information or support when it comes to technology. Many shared stories about having to contact children or grandchildren for technical support or reaching out to libraries for help with online tasks. Stakeholders also emphasized that an important aspect of teaching digital literacy skills to aging individuals is to make sure that the individuals teaching those digital literacy skills are representative of the population they are teaching. For example, organizations like AARP noted that aging individuals would be more receptive to digital literacy training if they were taught by an aging individual.
Aging individuals are less likely to have digital devices, such as a desktop, laptop or tablet, that they can use to access broadband. Without a digital device, accessing broadband is more challenging. Even with a smartphone, which is not as widely adopted among aging individuals as it is for other groups, many online activities that were mentioned as relevant to aging individuals — such as telehealth, connecting by phone or video with friends and family, and accessing personal information and benefits — can be challenging. These tasks are not impossible without a device or internet access, but an aging individual could accomplish the same thing, like visiting with their doctor, much more easily if they had a digital device and the digital literacy skills to use it properly. Finding opportunities to provide digital devices to aging individuals and creating resources to teach aging individuals how to use these devices could combat this barrier.
Aging individuals could be more susceptible to online criminal activity because of a lack of digital literacy skills. A common concern among stakeholders regarding the aging population was that this group could be targets of online criminal activity such as scams, fraud, or catfishing. There was a desire to see access to technology and broadband services increase for South Carolina’s aging population, but if these services are increased without also increasing digital literacy training, this population would be especially vulnerable. Stakeholders noted that efforts to increase access to broadband might include offering discounted broadband subscriptions or discounted devices; bad actors might take advantage of publicity around efforts to expand broadband to offer fake services and steal personal information. Digital literacy training for aging populations that focuses on online safety and marketing efforts that direct all South Carolinians to trustworthy sources of information about getting broadband services and devices could help prevent aging individuals from falling prey to online scams.
Individuals who are members of a racial or ethnic minority
Individuals who are members of a racial or ethnic minority comprise the largest covered population in South Carolina with 1,873,798 individuals in 2021 making up 37 percent of the total population. The largest ethnic groups within this population were Black or African American (25% of South Carolina’s population), Hispanic or Latino (6.3%), two or more races (3.9%), Asian (1.6%), some other race (0.4%), and American Indian (0.2%).
Access is a challenge for racial or ethnic minorities but probably not the greatest barrier. Individuals who are members of a racial or ethnic minority have a lower share of fixed broadband subscription, 7 percent less than the total population. However, members of racial or ethnic minority groups who responded to the Better-Internet Survey indicated at a lower rate (36%) that there is no ISP serving their home than the overall respondent rate (42%). This is still a high percentage of respondents that face access as a major barrier and consistent with stakeholder perspectives shared during direct engagement; it likely relates to the fact that cost was a greater concern for many members of this covered population.
Individuals who are members of an ethnic or racial minority group have less access to digital devices. In 2021, 34 percent of individuals who are members of an ethnic or racial minority group in South Carolina reported having no desktop or laptop compared with 26 percent for the total population. As discussed in previous sections, while a smartphone might be able to accomplish some online tasks, not having a desktop or laptop or even a tablet can be a serious setback when it comes to accessing broadband. Many activities related to education, employment, benefits, telehealth and more can be completed on a device, but are much easier to complete with a desktop or laptop. Lacking these devices is another setback that makes accessing Broadband even more challenging.
Individuals who are members of an ethnic or racial minority group struggle with affording broadband services. This covered population, like the total population, listed the cost of internet being too high as their number one reason to not have internet, but they did so more often than the total population. Sixty-one percent of individuals who are members of an ethnic or racial minority group gave cost as their number one reason compared with 57 percent of the total population. This covered population is also not quite as familiar with ACP as the total population, but only by one percent less. Even if familiarity with ACP is on par with the total population, there was still only 26 percent of survey respondents from this covered population that were familiar with ACP, thus suggesting there are opportunities to better market ACP to the 74 percent of individuals who are members of an ethnic or racial minority group that are unfamiliar.
Individuals who are members of an ethnic or racial minority group appear more likely to live in a location that is not served by an ISP. Like the total population, the second-most listed reason for having no internet is that there is not an ISP that serves that location. Many stakeholders at roadshow events told stories about their experiences trying to connect their homes to broadband only to be told they could not be served because of infrastructure costs or lack of demand. Individuals who are members of an ethnic or racial minority group also make up a significant portion of South Carolina’s population, so there could be overlap among this covered population and those who live in rural areas, where there tends to be less access.
Individuals who are members of an ethnic or racial minority group are skeptical that efforts to expand broadband access will reach them and are hesitant to trust resources or programs that might increase access to broadband. A frequent concern among stakeholders, especially at roadshow events, was that efforts to connect unserved and underserved populations would not actually reach their target audience. Many stakeholders felt like they had heard government entities promise assistance or support in the past only to never see these efforts come to fruition or benefit them in a noticeable way. There was skepticism that ISPs would be willing to expand networks or use funding to lower prices for their customers. Individuals who are members of an ethnic or racial minority group already face many barriers to accessing Broadband, and it is important to recognize there is also a cultural barrier to address when seeking to expand access. It will be important for this covered population to see that Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) and Digital Equity Act efforts can positively impact them. Many nonprofits and other organizations that had led efforts to expand broadband or increase access to digital devices stressed the importance of engaging a local community anchor, either an institution or individual that was trusted by the community, who could champion the nonprofit’s efforts. Having an ally in the community can improve the efficacy of efforts to expand broadband access.
Many residents of South Carolina live in rural areas, and although that population is increasing, urban populations are growing more rapidly, which is leading to rural residents comprising a smaller share than in the past. According to the U.S. Census Decennial Census, in 2020, 1,640,556 residents of South Carolina lived in rural locations, composing 32 percent of the total population. From 2010 to 2020, the number of rural residents of South Carolina increased by 83,000, representing a 5 percent total growth. Over the same time period, the urban population of South Carolina increased by 410,060 residents, representing 13 percent growth.
Individuals living in rural areas appear to have less access to broadband than those living in urban areas. Those living in rural areas reported higher rates of no home internet use in their household (22.3%) compared with those living in urban areas (17.5%). Rates for urban areas are about one percent higher than the US average, while rural area rates of no home internet use by anyone in the household are four percent higher than average.
Rural areas often lack the infrastructure to connect to broadband; their home/business/property is not connected to a network. In rural areas without existing connections to internet or Wi-Fi, technologies that are supposed to mitigate a lack of access, such as hotspots or MiFi devices, do not always work. There is demand for these access points, but stakeholders often reported that it is not profitable for ISPs to serve rural areas. To serve rural households, ISPs build new or expand existing infrastructure, but usually to only reach a few customers. As a result, ISPs often say they cannot justify the expense to serve an area with such a small customer base. These differences in the cost of serving a rural versus urban area often lead to less service in rural areas. This situation is currently creating a patchwork of service across the state with stakeholders reporting that it is not just that an ISP is serving one city and not another, but that ISPs will sometimes serve one neighborhood and not others, or even one side of the street and not the other. Rural stakeholders also felt that this lack of investment communicated to them that ISPs do not think they matter. One stakeholder reported that an ISP served one neighboring county, skipped over their rural county, and then served the more populous county on the opposite side, so their county doesn’t have internet but neighboring counties do.
Businesses in rural areas reported challenges connecting to the internet that were not as prevalent in urban areas. Businesses in rural areas have a harder time connecting to the internet for various reasons, such as services being more expensive; they do not have good options from ISPs; and many reported unreliable
connections. The lack of broadband connections in rural areas places rural business owners at a disadvantage. This led many stakeholders to express frustration with ISPs because many individuals felt that rural customers have higher costs for services, receive poor customer service, experience unreliable connections, and that ISPs do not properly address their concerns and do not conduct timely repairs.
Rural areas are frustrated with their lack of access because they do not feel they should have fewer opportunities than individuals in urban areas just because of where they live. Homeowners and property owners express frustration because of a lack of access to adequate broadband. Examples given were that homeowners cannot use smart devices, like home security systems or thermostats; they have more trouble connecting with others socially online, like attending a virtual religious service; have more trouble conducting telehealth visits; and more. This idea that rural areas will fall behind economically because of a lack of access also often came up regarding kids and education. Stakeholders felt that kids in rural areas might fall behind when it comes to education, career training, and job opportunities because many of these opportunities can be or are designed to be pursued online; without adequate access, adolescents in rural areas will not be able to get the education or career opportunities that adolescents in urban areas can.
Some small rural areas are afraid they will be left out of this initiative, even though funding is meant for unserved and underserved areas, which includes many rural areas. Many stakeholders felt that some promises made in the past about new economic opportunities or services were not kept. Stakeholders expressed concern that funding will not actually go to unserved and underserved rural communities.
Inadequate internet access can stymie the efforts of organizations trying to provide social or nonprofit services, especially in rural areas. This idea was often mentioned by stakeholders in reference to digital or technology nonprofits, schools, and libraries. For example, a digital literacy nonprofit could be in a rural area seeking to teach digital literacy skills to residents, but if the organization cannot get on the internet, it cannot help others. As another example, a school that has implemented a 1-1 digital device policy might not see the positive outcomes they were hoping for because students cannot use the devices at home due to a lack of internet access.
In 2021, 426,183 residents of South Carolina were veterans, making up 9 percent of the state’s civilian adult population. Veterans are located across the state but tend to exist in higher numbers and concentrations in or near larger urban areas.
Veterans appear to have more issues with broadband affordability compared with the total population. According to Better Internet resident survey, veterans face the same challenges as the overall population when it comes to being unable to access the internet but at higher rates. For both veterans and the overall population, the number one reason for having no internet was that the cost is too high, but veterans reported that this was more of an issue, with 61 percent saying prices are too high compared with 57 percent of the total population. In addition to more affordability challenges, veterans were also less familiar with the Affordable Connectivity program (ACP). Although in other metrics veterans generally perform well when it comes to broadband and digital device access, higher rates of affordability issues and unfamiliarity with resources could mean veterans face additional cost barriers when trying to access broadband.
Veterans have less access to an ISP’s service at home compared with the total population. Again, veterans noted the same reasons as the total population for having no internet but reported higher rates of not having internet because there is no ISP serving their home. The reasons for this disparity are unclear, but it further demonstrates that an inability to access an ISP’s services is a major barrier for veterans.
Veterans with digital skills could boost the State’s efforts to become a hub for cybersecurity businesses, but veterans often lack knowledge of this industry and how to pursue careers in this field. Stakeholders from the Department of Veterans Affairs reported that they are interested in pursuing opportunities to grow the cybersecurity industry in South Carolina and that veterans are often great candidates for careers in cybersecurity. However, this is still a growing industry, and there is not enough alignment between industry, the military, and training providers to grow this industry in a way that could benefit veterans. Stakeholders felt that as veterans transition to civilian life, a job in cybersecurity could align with skills from the military, although it might need to be supplemented with additional training. Enhancing collaboration in the pursuit of opportunities within the cybersecurity sector while offering employment opportunities to veterans could potentially serve as a means to diversify the state's economy. Moreover, it could establish additional avenues for military veterans transitioning to civilian life and foster the development of advanced, high-skilled job opportunities within South Carolina.
Individuals with disabilities
In 2021, there were 744,489 individuals with disabilities in South Carolina, comprising 15 percent of the state’s population.
Individuals with disabilities have less access to broadband than the total population. Individuals with disabilities could benefit from telehealth but have less access than the overall population. Not all healthcare services are available across the state; for example, one stakeholder mentioned that 14 counties in South Carolina do not have an OB/GYN office and several counties do not even have a hospital. The Kaiser Family Foundation also reports that there are 102 Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) in the state, totaling a combined population of almost 2 million, demonstrating the challenges all residents — especially those with disabilities — face in accessing primary healthcare. Telehealth could enable individuals with disabilities to speak to medical professionals or specialists that might not be in their community or within easy driving distance, thus allowing them to access the care they need with significantly less effort.
Websites are not always accessible, and individuals with disabilities might need accommodations to properly access and utilize the internet, but this can mean more expensive software or equipment that makes it even more challenging to access broadband. Individuals with disabilities might need certain software or equipment to access and utilize the internet. Accommodations can include software that reads onscreen text out loud, making sure that videos have captions for those that are hard of hearing, and enabling both mouse and keyboard navigation for those with mobility challenges. Stakeholders from all backgrounds pointed out that many essential functions — like filing taxes, applying for jobs, enrolling in school, and accessing government benefits — are all online now. Individuals with disabilities could face additional barriers in accessing these important services if they cannot properly access and utilize the internet. Unfortunately, if a website or device is not already built to be accessible, the responsibility to make it accessible — by purchasing certain software or equipment to access broadband — can fall on the individual with a disability. Without universally accessible websites or accessible and affordable accommodations, individuals with disabilities will face additional barriers to accessing broadband. A primary reason that individuals with disabilities gave for not having internet was that they access the internet outside the home, and the need for accommodations could contribute to this reasoning.
Individuals with disabilities struggle to afford broadband. Like all covered populations and the total South Carolina population, the primary reason that individuals with disabilities gave for having no internet is that the cost is too high. Individuals with disabilities gave this as their number one reason more often than the total South Carolina population, with 62 percent of individuals with disabilities listing cost as their primary reason for no internet compared with 57 percent of the total population. Despite this challenge, it appears that individuals with disabilities tend to be more aware of the ACP than the total South Carolina population by 5 percent. Nonetheless, with only 32 percent of individuals with disabilities that were familiar, there is a significant portion of the population that might struggle to afford broadband and be unaware of resources that could help them pay for broadband. Affordability as a barrier could also contribute to other barriers for individuals with disabilities, like lower rates of device ownership and the need for accommodations.
Individuals with disabilities have lower rates of digital device ownership than the total population. Not having a digital device such as a desktop, laptop, or tablet is a barrier to accessing broadband. While some broadband-related activities can be completed on a smartphone, there are many tasks that are much more difficult to complete on a smartphone because they involve writing a lot of text or moving files. If an individual lacks a digital device, — which was listed as a primary reason for individuals with disabilities not having internet —it means this population might access the internet outside of their home, such as a library, where there might be a digital device, strong broadband connections, and possibly accommodations or support from other individuals. While it could be considered a good sign that individuals with disabilities appear to be able to access broadband and digital devices even if they don’t have it at home, accessing broadband outside the home can lead to additional travel or cost barriers that could be challenging for individuals with disabilities.
Individuals with disabilities may lack the resources and digital literacy to engage with healthcare online, which has already been described by many stakeholders as a difficult system to navigate. Many stakeholders in the healthcare field pointed out that while telehealth offers a great many benefits, due to the private nature of the information being discussed on the call there are often greater security measures that can add steps and confusion to the process. Considering that individuals with disabilities tend to lack access at home more than the total population, they might be accessing their telehealth visit on a phone instead of a desktop or laptop, or they might need to visit a public place, like a library, to have a personal conversation with their healthcare provider. We also asked healthcare professionals if they were aware of resources that any patient could use to better understand and navigate their telehealth services, and many said “no.”
Individuals with a language barrier
Individuals with a language barrier, measured as those who speak English less than very well, are the smallest covered population in South Carolina. There are 134,020 individuals with a language barrier in the state, comprising 3 percent of the total population. The largest number and share of individuals with a language barrier appear to be in and near larger urban areas within South Carolina.
Individuals with a language barrier have less access to digital devices than the total population. Forty percent of those with a language barrier also do not have access to a desktop or laptop. As mentioned in previous sections, many important services are moving online and without adequate broadband access, including a digital device, utilizing these services can be more challenging. While many organizations, including government entities and nonprofits, try to make their services as mobile-friendly as possible, there are still challenges to depending on a smartphone for broadband access.
Individuals with language barriers might not seek out or utilize resources that require personal information because of their immigration status. Individuals with language barriers were the only covered population that reported that “we cannot get service due to a lack of ID, bank account or credit history” as one of their top three reasons for not having internet. This suggests that documentation status is a primary concern for this covered population. This group appears more hesitant than other covered populations to access internet service resources. This could also be related to this population’s lack of familiarity with the ACP, with only 18 percent of survey respondents saying they were aware of this program compared with 25 percent of overall respondents that were familiar with ACP.
Individuals with language barriers struggle to afford internet. Like many other covered populations, individuals with language barriers also list costs being too high as the number one reason they do not have internet. Like some other populations, individuals with language barriers reported this as their primary reason for having no internet more often than the total population, 63 and 57 percent respectively. The affordability barrier this population faces could be exacerbated by their lack of familiarity with ACP (18% of survey respondents reported being familiar with ACP, while most other covered populations had at least 20% of respondents reporting familiarity) and hesitancy to provide personal information to programs like ACP due to immigration-status fears for themselves or friends and family.
Detailed about incarcerated individuals, especially related to Digital Equity, is difficult to attain. As a result, the discussion in this section may appear different from others. According to the U.S. Decennial Census, in 2020 there were 31,693 adults in South Carolina correctional facilities and 1,537 in juvenile facilities.
Incarcerated individuals can benefit from broadband access, but providing broadband services in correctional facilities can be challenging. Stakeholders reported that while all state correctional facilities have internet access, ensuring that incarcerated individuals can access the internet is more challenging. Correctional facilities are connected but have more security concerns and special needs than a private business or other government facility. Stakeholders from these organizations reported that accessing these services can reduce recidivism rates, but that challenges in finding a provider, getting enough tablets for all inmates, and ensuring broadband connections remain private and secure is preventing them from fully deploying digital devices and internet services to incarcerated individuals. Many prisons, which are in rural areas where access is already a challenge, reported that, due to additional security concerns, Broadband can be even more expensive to deploy.
An incarcerated individual’s ability to access the internet can be dependent on location. While all correctional facilities have broadband access, the availability of services and devices can depend on the specific facility. Not every facility has the same level of access to resources; as described above, these resources can reduce recidivism by allowing incarcerated individuals to pursue education and job opportunities prior to being released. Incarcerated individuals might have more or less access to these resources based on their location, which is not something an individual can control.
Implementation Strategy and Objectives
The following goals are designed to achieve the vision for Digital Equity in South Carolina.
Goal 1: Broadband availability and affordability
Objective: Every household and business in South Carolina can subscribe to broadband service at an affordable rate.
- Re-purpose the existing South Carolina Broadband Advisory Committee (BBAC) to serve as a combined advisory council for both the broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program and the Digital Equity Act Programs.
- Establish a Digital Equity task force derived from the BBAC comprised of and representing each covered population group and regularly meet with them and partner organizations to assess progress in addressing affordability needs and barriers.
- Continue to prioritize populations in need and approach addressing barriers as implementation progresses and conditions change.
- Partner with non-profits and other organizations to promote utilization of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
- Alternatively, explore options to create public and private affordability programs to replace ACP, should the program be discontinued.
- Encourage ISPs to offer low-cost subscription options to qualifying covered populations.
- Message to all covered populations in funded areas that they have the ability to participate in ACP in addition to participating in an ISP's low-cost option.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):
- Increase the percentage of eligible households enrolled in the ACP (total and breakdown by covered population/geography if possible).
- Increase the percentage of households with a fixed broadband subscription (total and breakdown by covered population/geography).
Goal 2: Online accessibility and inclusivity
Objective: Every resident of South Carolina has access to reliable high-speed broadband service in their homes and businesses.
- Create new maps that combine South Carolina Broadband Office coverage data and covered population statistics to further prioritize populations and geographies in need.
- Transparently communicate progress, encourage accountability, and community involvement by regularly updating maps, making speed tests available on the state website, surveying residents/businesses to confirm services, and staying updated on needs and implementation progress.
- Support BEAD/SCBBO efforts to close broadband service gaps.
- Identify extremely high-cost remote, rural locations and leverage alternate technologies to reach them.
- Include hyper-focused messaging to covered populations about existing broadband deployment projects and newly available access to broadband service in funded areas.
- Increase the percentage of residents with access to high-speed broadband services (total and breakdown by covered population/geography).
Goal 3: Digital literacy
Objective: Every resident of South Carolina has access to education and training opportunities necessary to effectively use the internet to advance their personal goals and increase South Carolina’s technology workforce competitiveness.
- Establish a statewide framework for digital literacy (test or another metric).
- Work with education and non-profit partners to develop Digital Literacy training curriculum with options tailored to prioritized covered populations and provide guidance for integration into public K-12 schools and existing education programs that are underperforming or underserved.
- Support existing public and private training programs – including apprenticeships – that aim to expand the telecommunications and cybersecurity workforce by bolstering digital skills and creating career opportunities.
- Identify covered populations and geographic areas with greatest Digital Literacy needs to prioritize for Digital Equity grant program scoring.
- Meet with state agencies and non-profit organizations that offer similar programs and serve covered populations to establish a network of potential implementation partners, share priorities for Digital Equity, and raise awareness of upcoming Digital Equity grant program.
- Create digital training standards for partners and grant recipients to provide services that match established standards.
- Increase the share of the population that feels confident in their ability to use the internet.
Goal 4: Online privacy and cybersecurity
Objective: Every resident of South Carolina can safely and securely utilize broadband services.
- For underserved school districts, assist with implementation of schoolwide digital safety and awareness standards for K-12 students.
- Invest in a statewide digital safety campaign to ensure that all residents of SC can identify malicious content on their devices.
- Coordinate with the South Carolina Department of Administration's Office of Technology and Information Services, the Division of Information Security (DIS), and community anchor institutions to deliver training to covered populations.
- Organize a "Cybersecurity Awareness Week" to focus on internet safety and promote cybersecurity careers.
- Promote online privacy and cybersecurity efforts through SC.GOV, tax notices, DMV, SLED and other notable statewide campaigning.
- Increase the share of the surveyed population that feels safe using the internet.
Goal 5: Device availability and affordability
Objective: Every resident of South Carolina can access a desktop or laptop computer at home or in an accessible location.
- Prioritize Digital Equity grant program scoring toward device programs that serve geographies and populations with highest identified needs.
- Support universal one-to-one programs throughout the complete public K-12 system.
- Partner with organizations to establish a statewide computer recycling network.
- Encourage schools, libraries, and other organizations offering computer labs to consider ways to increase accessibility.
- Work with the Digital Equity task force and non-profits to raise awareness of accessible computer labs and programs to provide devices to households.
Digital Equity in South Carolina
The public comment process for the Digital Opportunity Department's draft Digital Equity Plan is now closed. For more information on South Carolina's efforts to close its digital divide, visit the DOD website.
More in this series:
- Connectivity in the Commonwealth: Virginia's Plan
- A Wholistic Digital Equity Plan for Rhode Island
- A Plan to Transform Indiana's Digital Equity Landscape
- Equitable Participation in Today's Digital World: New Hampshire's Plan
- Digital Skills and Accessibility in Mississippi
- Addressing Digital Equity Needs in Iowa
- Centering Communities in Arizona's Digital Equity Plan
- The Plan for a Connected Illinois
- Developing Digital Skills and Opportunity in Arkansas
- A New Chapter of Digital Equity Work in California
- New Mexico's Plan for an Inclusive and Prosperous Society
- Everyone Connected: Connecticut's Digital Equity Plan
- Coloradans at the Heart of State's Digital Access Plan
- Connected and Empowered: A Digital Equity Plan for Pennsylvania
- Guiding Texas' Digital Opportunity Investments
- Florida's Roadmap for Closing the Digital Divide
- Creating Digital Opportunities in Nebraska
- Developing Digital Equity Solutions in Vermont
- Working Towards Digital Equity in DC
- Oregon's Plan for Meaningful Broadband Access
- Massachusetts' Unified Vision of Digital Equity
- Alaska's Plan to Address Broadband Adversity
- Georgia's Plan for Digital Connectivity
- In a New York State of Digital Equity
- A Plan for Digital Equity in Delaware
- Equity for the Digital Age: Maryland's Plan
- North Dakota's Collective Approach to Digital Equity
- A Plan for Connecting New Jersey
- Achieving a Digitally Inclusive Ohio
- A Digital Access Plan for All Idahoans
- Envisioning a Connected, Interconnected Alabama
- Missouri Pursues Sustainable Digital Opportunity Initiatives
- A Digital Equity Plan to Connect All Kansans
- South Dakota's Plan to Leverage Digital Equity to Reach Economic Goals
- Aloha Spirit Inspires Hawai'i Digital Equity Plan
- The Plan for Closing Nevada’s Digital Divide
- Wisconsin's Digital Equity Values
- ¡Su opinión cuenta! Puerto Rico Releases Initial Draft of Digital Equity Plan | ¡Su Opinión Cuenta! Puerto Rico Pública el Borrador Inicial del Plan de Equidad Digital
- Kentucky Pursues Full and Equitable Digital Access for All
- Tennessee Drafts a Digital Opportunity Plan
- Washington State Sets Digital Equity Goals
- West Virginia's Plan to Conquer the Digital Divide
- Wyoming Seeks Feedback on Digital Access Plan
- Communities Know Communities Best: Michigan's Digital Equity Plan
- Montana's Digital Opportunity Plan
- Achieving Digital Independence in Utah
- Maine's Vision of Digital Equity
- A Look at Louisiana's Draft Digital Equity Plan
The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy - rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity - has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.
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