Building a more #ConnectedAmerica

Cherokee County doesn’t strike you as a hotbed of innovation. The population is around 55,000 people living in around 25,000 housing units, the county seat is Gaffney – the peach capital of South Carolina…

One thing you probably don’t want to do is go online as around 4,500 locations — residences and small businesses — in Cherokee County lack internet service.

This statistic perhaps demonstrates why Cherokee County and Charter Communications have announced a public-private partnership that over the next two years is set to expand high-speed internet access countywide. More significantly this could be a model for expanding rural broadband access across the United States.

Initial dollars for the ambitious project will come from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), a $20.4 billion fund established by the FCC to bring high speed fixed broadband service to rural homes and small businesses that lack it. In the case of Cherokee County over over $3 million have been awarded to connect around 3,000 homes and small businesses to quality, high-speed internet service – all in areas currently completely unserved, according to the Federal Communications Commission rules.

The interesting part of this deal is how it will reach beyond the limit of the RDOF expansion. Charter have been contracted by Cherokee County has to deploy approximately 173 additional miles of network infrastructure, which will provide service to about 1,466 additional homes and small businesses. The funding comes from Cherokee County, the Cherokee County School District and the Spartanburg Regional Foundation who together will invest $3 million to extend service to these areas, with Charter privately funding the remainder.

Jessica Geremia, Spectrum Area Vice President, Field Operations at Charter Communications said "Leveraging RDOF resources, we’re building a high-speed, high-capacity network that will bring gigabit internet to thousands of homes and small businesses in Cherokee County — an investment that will ensure families and businesses can participate fully in the digital world, now and well into the future."

This project demonstrates the approach of Charter to extending internet access. In January 2021 they announced a $5 billion initiative to deliver high-speed internet to one million homes and small businesses across the country.