Home Telecom Awarded Two Rural Broadband Expansion Grants Toward Nearly $14.7M Projects
Home Telecom has been awarded two state grants totaling over $9.5 million from the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS), to expand rural broadband to 2,640 structures throughout Berkeley County and parts of Dorchester County. The areas most affected by the expansion are portions of Cross, Huger, Harleyville, Bates Pond/Huger South, Jedburg Road, and Lebanon.
Announced this week by the South Carolina Broadband Office (SCBBO) and funded through its American Rescue Plan Act’s (ARPA) Capital Projects Fund (CPF 1.0) grant program, the $9.5 million awarded by CPF in addition to the $5.1 capital contribution from Home Telecom brings the total investment to nearly $14.7 million.
Construction will commence in the second quarter of 2024 with completion expected in December 2025.
For this round, the SCBBO committed $112,303,273 to eight Internet Service Providers including Home Telecom, with the capacity to connect over 16,000 locations statewide.
“We are incredibly excited about this first phase of CPF investments in South Carolina,” said Jim Stritzinger, director of the SC Broadband Office. “In early 2024, we anticipate completing our CPF decisions and gearing up for the final set of ARPA investments.
“With these investments, ISPs are now penetrating hard-to-reach areas from the Lowcountry to the Upstate, and lives are changing by the day!”
One of Home Telecom’s stated missions is to expand fiber infrastructure and broadband access to rural areas in the tri-county (Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley) area and Home Telecom has worked with ORS several times in the past. Most recently, they provided broadband services to over 500 unserved residences, businesses and critical facilities in Berkeley and Dorchester counties after being awarded a similar 2021 grant.
All projects for grants awarded through ORS have been completed ahead of schedule.
Home Telecom President and CEO William Helmly said he is excited about being awarded two grants this year.
“Home Telecom will be able to double rural broadband upgrades, which gives us the ability to speed up attaining our goal to provide more access to high-speed internet,” he said.
Andrew Bateman, acting executive director of the South Carolina ORS said these grants are the culmination of months of hard work.
“We greatly appreciate the continued participation of ISPs and support from Governor McMaster and the General Assembly as we work together to solve South Carolina’s digital divide,” he said. “Without their help, such rapid internet deployment would not be possible.”
According to broadband experts, when compared to installing the traditional above-ground cable, burying fiber optic lines can cost Home Telecom as much as $40,000 per mile, versus $28,000 per mile to attach cable to a telephone pole. That presents an economic challenge when it can require several miles of fiber to reach only a half dozen homes in a small community.
High speed internet has become essential to everyday life, made especially relevant during the pandemic when business and school closures forced people to work and study from their homes.