Editorial: Aiken County should strive to be connected

September 9, 2018

This is the world we live in and we need to be connected to it.

If you go back as little as 15 years, being online would most likely be a luxury. You could play games, chat with those who also had internet access and do the general “surfing” for anything fun and different.

In this day and age, it’s a necessity.

We live by the internet, we pay our bills, grocery shop, read books, stream movies and television, and conduct business through email.

And most importantly, we use the internet for research. We gather information in seconds because we need it. We get it through our computers, laptops, tablets and probably more through our phones.

On Friday morning, Jim Stritzinger, director for the Center for Applied Innovation and Advanced Analytics, discussed the importance of connecting the state of South Carolina.

“It’s a really important message,” he said. “Can you imagine what will happen when we get this done? And it’s not are we going to get it done. We will get it done. So we have a very unique opportunity to knock this out.”

This is a factor we should be aware of. As much as 10 percent of Aiken County households are incapable of connecting to the internet due to a lack of the reach of the towers. Most of these areas are rural communities between Aiken and Monetta and further south to just out Wagener.

It may not sound like much, but in looking at a map of Aiken County and what is connected and what is not, it appears that about 40 percent of the land mass is not connected. Changing that would provide broadband capability in all areas of the county.

Stritzinger discussed how these areas lack a 25 megabits per second download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed. The 25 Mbps is the minimum broadband speed defined by the Federal Communications Commission. This translates into the ability for one person in a household to be on the internet and have it download pages, or stream clips without the “buffering” and delays.

And its important for each household to have internet not so much for movies or games, but for research. Research that students need to get an education. And its not just college students, but high school, middle school and, yes, elementary school.

Of course, readers and viewers rely on the online resources provided by Aiken Communications for community news and information, too. In 2018, the Aiken Standard and North Augusta Star websites and social media followers totaled 193,719 average unique visitors per month and viewed and average of 1,439,914 digital news pages online each month. Newspaper carriers may not deliver local news to every corner of Aiken County but the internet should.

The internet is important for the small businesses in these rural communities to grow.

And its important for the overall development of the county. If there’s access to the internet in these areas, then the population can grow in these areas, as well.

Stritzinger’s point was for Aiken County to get behind the cause and we should.

“We just want to get the word out,” he said.

The internet is no longer a leisure, it’s a need.

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