The state-owned part of the broadband spectrum could be rented out for revenue, according to a plan sent to the South Carolina Budget and Control Board. By federal law, the state must keep five percent of the broadband for its own usage. Advocates of leasing the broadband want to use another 20 percent of the spectrum to generate money for the state. Opponents say the state is practically giving away the spectrum, since increases in technology may make it 100 times more valuable in another 30 years.
The plan calls for 70 percent of the leased capacity to be used in urban areas, with 30 percent devoted to rural areas.
One of those is Orangeburg representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter, the only Democrat who served on the broadband subcommittee. Cobb-Hunter has expressed concern as a state lawmaker that not enough rural residents will be served by the broadband Internet service which will be provided by the leasing companies.
“All I want is assurance that rural South Carolina will benefit from this goldmine,” said Cobb-Hunter.
The subcommittee endorsed a 30-year lease worth over 140 million dollars with two private companies. ETV converted to a digital format from its analog format, freeing up 95 percent of its capacity. The Budget and Control Board will have final approval over the lease agreement.
Cobb-Hunter says a general statement that the leasing companies intend to serve rural areas should not be sufficient for any state officials. She wants a list of examples of how the leasing companies have served rural residents in the past. Representative Cobb-Hunter says the businesses have openly said they’re market-driven entities, and that often indicates that service to less-profitable rural areas lags behind.