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Published on May 15th, 2014 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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South Carolina’s Broadband Hinges on Decisions in DC

Written by Carrie Sinkler-Parker

For most people across South Carolina, and particularly those like me in rural counties, it is easy to see that broadband is important for our economy, society and our underserved communities. For many, the Internet is a gateway to opportunity. But when asked what happens behind their computer or smartphone—or the regulation governing that technology—most people are not fully informed. Well, current proceedings at the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, DC could drastically change how the Internet is regulated and operated. Before any decisions are made, the FCC must think about the implications for the economy, small businesses and rural and underserved communities.

New broadband technologies have brought great benefits to our community and businesses. In the past, adoption of broadband technologies was generally higher in some communities than others. However, a poll by Pew found that minorities are more likely to access the Internet through their phone.

With increased broadband adoption our community has realized the benefits provided by robust Internet availability. Improved access to general information, public services, job opportunities and healthcare are just some of the ways we have benefitted.

Many of these benefits are directly related to investments by private broadband providers. The industry has invested millions upon millions into broadband networks over recent years. This massive investment has contributed to 89 percent of South Carolinians having access to wired networks capable of 10 mbps or higher and 97 percent of the population having access to wireless broadband.

This investment and robust access to broadband supports many jobs throughout our state.  Not only are thousands employed to work on these networks, but there are also many benefits to small businesses.  Using broadband, companies can expand their sales footprint, reaching anyone with an Internet connection around the world, including rural communities like mine. In fact, a 2013 study found that South Carolina businesses earn about $17 billion annually in online sales. Enabling even more broadband investment in our state will only increase these economic, social, and education opportunities for all South Carolinians.

However, some advocates are calling for rules that would increase regulations on broadband technology, classifying it as a service similar to the old phone lines. But broadband is not a phone line. It is a vibrant, evolving technology that has benefitted from its ability to evolve and adapt to new technologies and standards. If those advocates win the day, the action would cause much of the previous progress and investment to slow and dry up.

Before the FCC makes any decision impacting broadband, they should stop and think about their approach and the effects. Luckily, South Carolina is well represented at the FCC by Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. She is one of the key decision makers at the FCC and, as a South Carolinian, she will undoubtedly defend the benefits our community receives from broadband investments and innovation. Now we must show our support for protecting the open Internet in its current form and allowing broadband to evolve and innovate as it has been able to do since its inception.

Carrie Sinkler-Parker

Community Collaborator

PO Box 313

Alcolu, SC29001

 

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