South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster announced on Wednesday that the state would begin using its public broadcasting system’s wireless signal to help bridge the digital divide.
McMaster announced a $1.3 million investment in datacasting technology that will allow students without the internet to access their schools’ courses using radio waves. South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman explained that students without a stable internet connection will be able to remotely access educational materials like videos, pictures and text-based lessons on their home computers during the pandemic by tuning into a broadcast signal with just a radio tuner and a TV antenna.
“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure students get a first-class education,” McMaster said. “While data streaming has traditionally been used to support public safety, the ability to deliver classes and educational content to students with limited or no internet access, and approximately 20% of our state does not have a good internet access.”
The state estimated the project will provide remote access to educational materials to up to 5,000 students in 34 South Carolina school districts, with priority given to districts with higher COVID-19 infection rates. and higher student poverty rates. Officials said they would first test the technology in Fairfield, Jasper and York District One school districts before attempting a wider rollout.
The signal, which will be provided by South Carolina Educational Television, or SCETV, covers about 98% of South Carolina’s geographic area, according to the governor.
Datacasting is often used to provide metadata with radio or television signals, and to assist in the transmission of news, weather and traffic data.