Free internet to be given to Cross school children

Households in Cross, SC that have school-aged children are going to be receiving free internet for the next school year.

Home Telecom, in partnership with Berkeley County School District, is going to be providing home internet for 365 kindergarten to 12th grade students.

BCSD has previously given students Chromebooks, through their OneBerkeley Connects initiative.

The program has its roots in 2017 when Home Telecom decided to invest heavily into the Cross community. Currently only about 60% of homes in the Cross area have access to high-speed internet service.

Home Telecom will also work to provide internet access to 95% of the homes without any internet access.

"Home Telecom will be installing the service in homes that we are able to at no charge to anyone. We will construct lines to homes that have never had service with us, bury a drop, and then install the internet in the home. All of this will happen before the first day of school on August 19th," said Caoimhe Zett of Home Telecom.

The project will cost Home Telecom $1.5 million in addition to $500,000 for enhancements of the existing lines already in Cross. 

The internet access is going to be free for the 2019-2020 school years. The internet access will then be given at a discount through Home Telecom and BCSD thanks to a Google grant.

"Home Telecom will be offering the internet plans at a highly reduced rate, which the Berkeley County School District will pay for each of the qualifying homes during the 2019/2020 school year. The funds to pay for the reduced plans will be coming from a Google grant that the Berkeley County School District received for this purpose," Zett said.

BCSD has begun notifying the homes eligible to receive internet access this week. Also, any homes that are eligible that currently have access to internet that is slower than 10Mbps can upgrade for no charge to take advantage of the opportunity.

Households can retain their internet access at the conclusion of the school year for a reduced rate.

"The price for the internet plan during the summer months will be $34.95 per month if the household wishes to keep the plan during that time," Zett said. "Homes who continue to have a student can apply for our Community Connect program, which is available to all K-12 student residences within our footprint."

Community Connect is a program offered by Home Telecom that provides internet to homes for $9.95 a month, in order to qualify for the program the applicant must be involved in one of the following federal programs, Federal Public Housing Assistance/Section 8, Low Income Home Energy Assistance, Medicaid, National School Free Lunch program, Supplemental Security Income, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.