S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Sept. 16, 2007
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/07.0916.wireless.htm

Statewide wireless network closer than you might think
By Andy Brack, Publisher

SEPT. 16, 2007 - - Imagine a South Carolina in which anyone in any corner of the state could access the Internet wirelessly through high-speed connections at any time.

This vision for a statewide, wireless broadband network may be closer to reality than you may think.

State Sen. Jim Ritchie, a Spartanburg Republican on the short list of potential 2008 gubernatorial candidates, has been pushing the idea all year. Next month, a special state commission will explore the merits of the system and report to the General Assembly by January.


"It gives us an enormous competitive advantage to attract talented people to South Carolina to build businesses and for people to expand their businesses to compete globally at minimal costs," Ritchie said.

Other major benefits are that it would provide high-speed Internet access to rural parts of the state and would allow the state to provide more vibrant educational materials.

"Studies show mobile government workers will increase 26 percent over the next six years," Ritchie said. "In the private sector, they're expected to grow 17 percent over next six years. Those people will depend on wireless connectivity to do their jobs."

South Carolina has a distinct advantage for building a statewide network because much of the infrastructure already is in place thanks to SCETV. Not only does the state own the licenses for extra bandwidth that is needed for a wireless state network to be deployed, but it has vertical towers across the state that can help beam it all over. Most states don't have one entity that controls excess bandwidth being created by federal requirements that the educational network convert from analog to digital signals.

SCETV President Moss Bresnahan has been advocating for this new Wi-Max network for a couple of years because of its advantages in allowing SCETV to do more educational programming and providing a platform for economic development.

"It makes the marketplace more dynamic and ensures broadband for the rural areas," he said.

Ritchie and Bresnahan say a plan for a statewide network would depend on a public-private partnership to help fund improvements and deploy it in an affordable manner.

Here's how it could work: South Carolina would rent wireless spectrum and lease tower space to a company that wants to create the Wi-Max network in South Carolina. In turn, it would make necessary infrastructure investments to ensure statewide coverage beyond current SCETV towers. Then it would sell affordable access to the robust broadband network to anyone who wanted it.


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Telecommunications powerhouse AT&T says the idea has merit.

"AT&T supports policies that encourage investment and innovation in broadband deployment," said spokeswoman Terri Denard. "Deploying advanced broadband Internet services to more Americans more quickly and greater adoption of these services should be a priority."

Ritchie said such a network could be built sooner than you might think.

"Technically, it can be done given the backbone we have and the widely available types of broadband technologies," he said. "The costs are reasonable and if the commission can be successful in putting together a model, it may be put together in the next year."

Imagine the possibilities of such a network:

  • Ambulance workers could get health information on emergency victims at a scene by accessing files delivered to portable devices from hometown doctors.

  • Rural citizens could get jobs as service call workers for big companies by using the Internet in their homes (which would keep the jobs in the U.S. and not in countries like India.)

  • SCETV would have a standard, routine source of revenue from towers and spectrum rented to the broadband vendor

State lawmakers need to move quickly to build a doable plan for using the excess spectrum South Carolina has. If they don't, the state could lose it and the FCC would auction it off. If that happened, the state would lose a powerful economic development and education tool.

The deadline for a plan that works is January 2009.

Andy Brack, publisher of Statehouse Report, can be reached at: brack@statehousereport.com.

Recent commentary

SC uses a lot of nuclear power

Seven nuclear reactors, with a combined capacity of 6,525 megawatts, were in operation in South Carolina by 1986. By the start of the 21st century, more than half (52.2 percent) of the electricity generated in the state was created by nuclear fission, as compared to about 20 percent for the United States as a whole. Few other states can claim such a strong nuclear profile. In terms of the percentage of electricity needs generated with nuclear power, South Carolina is second only to Vermont. In terms of overall nuclear capacity, South Carolina trails only Pennsylvania and Illinois.


S.C. Statehouse Report has partnered with USC Press to provide readers with an interesting weekly historical excerpt about the state. Each excerpt, which is used with permission and not for republication, is taken from The South Carolina Encyclopedia, a 1,077-page book published in 2006 with entries by almost 600 contributors and edited by noted historian Walter Edgar. We hope you enjoy this new feature.

Replacing this nuclear production of electricity with coal-fired production would have required more than 22 million metric tons of coal. One gram of plutonium or uranium contains the energy of two tons of coal or one ton of oil. If uranium were replaced with coal, 277,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, 139,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 11,740,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide would have been released into the South Carolina atmosphere in 2000 alone.

-- Entry by James R. Frysinger, The South Carolina Encyclopedia

lighter side
Media trick

Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:

9/11: Some good points in sex Ed column

To Statehouse Report:

(Regarding Andy Brack's column on sex education in schools), I've said for many years that very few people lose sleep worrying about such things. I'm for working with anyone who does.

-- Anne Badgley, CEO, Heritage Community Services, Charleston, S.C.

Recent feedback

9/4: Why insurance companies want to cancel policies, Dan Norfleet, Summerville, SC
Australia is tip of iceberg, John P. Ford, Sumter, S.C.
8/13: Americans have grown apathetic, David Whetsell, Lexington, S.C.
7/30: Queensland has enterprising spirit, Sandra Plock, Sumter, SC
Domestic violence laws may be used wrongly, Marty Hicks, Mount Pleasant, SC
6/26: Brack is inconsistent, Bill Rentiers III, Lexington, SC
6/14: East Edisto would be boon to ACE Basin, Maggie Ridge, Hollywood, SC
6/12: Protect large tracts, Benjamin Lennon, Short Hills, NJ

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Hydrogen economy in SC
By Bill Davis, editor
From the paid-subscriber issue of Statehouse Report

SEPT. 14, 2007 -- The tritium leaks at the Barnwell low-level radioactive dump is proof of what can happen if there's too much hydrogen lying around. Ironically, there are federal and state legislators fighting to make sure there will be another form of hydrogen available for centuries to come in South Carolina.

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Excerpts from The South Carolina Encyclopedia are published with permission and copyrighted 2006 by the Humanities Council SC. Excerpts were edited by Walter Edgar and published by the University of South Carolina Press. No republication is allowed.