New push aims to get everyone online with broadband in CSRA

Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 6:39 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Access to high speed internet may sound like an automatic thing in 2021 but thousands of people in our area still don’t have access to it. And this isn’t just important for surfing Facebook, it’s been crucial for students learning remotely or just doing homework.

In Aiken County, 22 percent of the county doesn’t have it. A quarter of Burke County is without it too. In Richmond County there is access but our I-Team found 15 percent of Richmond County parents say their child doesn’t have the internet at home. In more rural counties like Allendale or Bamberg, that number is at half.

Now there’s a new push in both states to get everyone online.

Earlier today Aiken Electric celebrated their partnership with Carolina Connect. The two are bringing high-speed fiber optic internet to rural South Carolina.

Now we know Augusta is not a rural area, but still, we have limited broadband access. We took a closer look at how the two compare. When the pandemic hit most everything went virtual which created a lot of issues for those living in rural areas trying to work.

Ashley West, a third-grade school teacher, remembers “Last year with our old internet it would take forever for things to upload we would old Zoom calls and mine would drop out in the middle and I’d have to get them back in.”

“There’s nothing like panicking five minutes before a hearing because you cannot get on,” said Jackie Busbee, an attorney.

“We had no clue. We tried satellite service before it was totally unacceptable, AT&T service was barely acceptable so we really didn’t have a whole lot of options,” said Barrett Smith, a man who works with lumber.

Augusta is the eighth most connected city in Georgia. Nearly 7,000 people in Richmond County don’t have access to any wired internet.

“I was very excited for our business you know everything we do is pretty much related to the internet,” said Busbee.

Internet access is all measured by a matter of bites. Megabytes and gigabytes. One megabyte is one million bytes, one gigabyte is one billion bytes. So when it comes to highspeed internet, you want a provider with fiber optics.

The average download speed in Augusta is about 73 megabytes per second.

Over the past year, Governor Kemp has worked with local governments, state partners, Georgia electric membership corporation to bring reliable internet to 44 counties totaling over $491 million of investment. He plans to continue to use federal COVID relief funds to explore expanding across the state no matter your zip code.

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