For years, residents in Evans County have reached out to local government officials about bringing in faster data speeds to its unincorporated areas. On Feb. 5, the county was recognized at the State Capitol for its recent Broadband Ready Community Designation.
Casey Burkhalter, administrator for the county, said living in a community with limited internet has resulted in negative effects such as families leaving the county. After learning about the Broadband legislation with a local co-op applying for USDA grant opportunities, his team decided to move forward with the application process.
A community (city, county) can be certified as a Broadband Ready Community by completing the online application form and demonstrating compliance with the adoption of a Comprehensive Plan inclusive of the promotion of the deployment broadband services and adoption of a Broadband Ordinance Model.
“Going through the federal application process, Evans County and the Industrial Development Authority recognized the need to create a team to work towards all broadband opportunities as presented," Burkhalter said. He described the process of applying as exciting due to his team discovering hidden opportunities within their community with broadband present. He added, “With local leadership collaboration and leading by example, co-ops have been locally meeting to support each other and strengthen the opportunity for collaboration.”
He sees broadband access as creating endless opportunities for education, healthcare and economic development. Burkhalter said, “By blanketing our community with broadband accessibility, this will allow for new businesses to locate outside of incorporated areas, people to receive satellite healthcare, and will also allow children and adults to achieve various educational opportunities. High-speed internet will also benefit our agricultural community greatly.”
Burkhalter also stresses the importance of other communities applying for this designation due to the detrimental nature of broadband in multiple facets of everyday living. He emphasized this by saying, “Almost every aspect of life is driven by technology and internet access. If you are not connected to high-speed internet, then your limitations are compounded.”