According to 2019 data from the U.S. Census, more than 22 percent of South Carolina households do not have access to broadband internet service. Many other households do not have access to reliable service. Residents living within these “broadband deserts” find themselves at a technological disadvantage.
Thanks to a $6 million grant from South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, the University of South Carolina’s regional Palmetto College campuses and Benedict College are able to bridge the gap in providing access at designated locations within the state’s broadband deserts.
“I am pleased that these labs are coming online at a time when basic access to broadband internet plays an essential role in increasing opportunities for our rural students and communities,” said South Governor McMaster in a statement shared at the Feb. 25 launch of the first lab at USC Union. “With more labs in the network opening in the coming months, we’re placing resources in the hands of our communities and people, allowing them to participate in our state’s growing economy.”
In March 2021, Governor McMaster awarded $6 million of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds to the University of South Carolina, who, in partnership with Benedict College, will establish a total of eight Apple computer labs statewide. The complete network will include community learning labs at six USC Palmetto College regional campus locations, along with hubs in Columbia’s Bull Street District and at Benedict College. The regional Palmetto College campuses are all located within 15 miles or less of a broadband desert, according to the South Carolina Broadband Map, providing reliable technology and internet access to these communities.
Five of the six Palmetto College iCarolina Labs are currently open at USC Union, USC Lancaster, USC Sumter and USC Salkehatchie at the Allendale and Walterboro campuses, respectively.
“We are delighted to open Palmetto College iCarolina Learning Labs in campus locations across South Carolina,” said Palmetto College Chancellor Susan Elkins. “This technology investment in our campuses and communities opens the door for so many South Carolinians to gain skills and certifications that will enable them to grow both academically and professionally. Thank you to Governor McMaster for his leadership and vision to create this tremendous opportunity for our communities.”
The labs have been strategically located for use by USC Palmetto College regional campuses, local school districts, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), the South Carolina Technical College System and citizens in the community. Each site provides Apple products and educational programming to faculty, staff, students and the community at no cost to the user.
“As the state’s flagship institution, the University of South Carolina is leading many efforts to educate and train the workforce of the future,” said Bill Kirkland, executive director of the UofSC Office of Economic Engagement. “In the modern economy, we know that the state needs more highly skilled workers in specialized fields than ever before. Initiatives like the iCarolina network will help fill the gap between K-12, two-year colleges, and higher education for the benefit of our entire statewide community.”
The five Palmetto College iCarolina Labs are among eight total lab locations opening throughout South Carolina that will provide underserved communities with access to high-speed broadband internet.
The Palmetto College iCarolina Lab at USC Union
Union County Carnegie Library
300 East South Street
Union, SC 29379
Opened Feb. 25, 2022
The Palmetto College iCarolina Lab at USC Lancaster
James Bradley Arts and Sciences Building (Room 102)
476 Hubbard Drive
Lancaster, SC 29720
Opened April 7, 2022
The Palmetto College iCarolina Lab at USC Sumter
Anderson Library (second floor)
200 Miller Road
Sumter, SC 29150
Opened May 10, 2022
The Palmetto College iCarolina Lab at USC Salkehatchie (Allendale)
Library and Academic Support Building
465 James Brandt Boulevard
Allendale, SC 29810
Opened June 21, 2022
The Palmetto College iCarolina Lab at USC Salkehatchie (Walterboro)
Peden B. McLeod Library
807 Hampton Street
Walterboro, SC 29488
Opened June 21, 2022