By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
A 10-year campaign to bring broadband Internet to the town of Lamar has finally paid off. Charter Communications and Spectrum Cable announced last week that they will invest $1 million to build a state-of-the-art network in the Lamar community.
“Internet is obviously a necessity. It is not a luxury. Rural communities all over are struggling to try and retain young people, and Internet is a must,” said Ben Breazeale, senior director of government affairs for Charter Communications. “I promise you all – and I’m not just putting on my corporate hat here – it’s going to transform this community. This is 100 megabits of Internet going to almost every house in Lamar.”
Breazeale said the new network will cover every street in town, and installation should be complete in late March or early April 2019. He also announced that Charter-Spectrum will offer special pricing plans for lower-income customers.
“We have the most robust affordable Internet product on the market, which is called Spectrum Internet Assist,” Breazeale said.
He explained that this program offers a 30 Mbps modem connection for $14.99 per month (plus $5 per month for a WiFi router), and is available to any home with a child who receives free or reduced price school lunch, or any home with a senior citizen who receives supplemental Social Security income.
“It’s not just an educational product, it’s also for retirees, so anyone in town who needs a fast connection will be able to afford it,” Breazeale said.
According to a recent report from the Federal Communications Commission, 34 million Americans lack access to high-speed broadband in the home.
Statistics from The Pew Research Center indicate that 5 million families with school-aged children don’t have broadband at home.
Charter-Spectrum determines eligibility for Spectrum Internet Assist, and customers who wish to apply can call 1-844-525-1574.
Several state and local government dignitaries were on hand for the announcement, including Sen. Gerald Malloy, Rep. Robert Williams, Lamar Mayor Darnell Byrd-McPherson, and former Lamar mayor and current Darlington County Council chairman Bobby Hudson.
Breazeale hailed Hudson in particular for his “tenacious” decade-long effort to secure broadband for his hometown.
“This Internet is going to open up a lot of things for Lamar,” said Hudson, adding that broadband will positively impact the planned new Lamar Elementary School, will allow more people to work from home and could bring more economic development.
Lamar is located very close to the Darlington County I-20/Highway 340 Industrial Park and convenient to I-95, and some consider it prime real estate for future business.
“This is the greatest place here in our area for the recruitment of business,” said Malloy. “We have the interstate, we have a park, and we have a town where people would love to come and raise their families.”
“Having a top-notch, first-class communications system means that we are truly on the map,” said Byrd-McPherson.
Charter-Spectrum also donated $5,000 to the Lamar Rescue Squad, and gave three new iPads to the Lamar Library.