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Letter: SC Rural Internet Proposals Must Be Mindful Of Hidden Local Costs

“Be careful what you ask for … poor, rural taxpayers will be forced to pick up the tab.”

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RE: Justin Bamberg’s South Carolina Rural Internet Bill

Dear Editor,

Your story today about state representative Justin Bamberg‘s rural internet bill is lacking in a major aspect. The county authorization to form its own broadband network can come at a heavy cost to the taxpayers in those same poor counties.

In Bamberg’s own home county, Bamberg County Council in May of 2018 submitted an application for a $3 million USDA Rural Utilities Services “Community Connectivity” grant to provide broadband service in a very small, sparsely populated section of this small, poor county known as Hunters Chapel.

Guess what: THE $3 MILLION GRANT COMES WITH A REQUIRED $450,000 LOCAL MATCH!

The veracity-challenged County Administrator Joey Preston says he has secured “state funding” to pay the local match, but I can find no documentation of such. In the end, the county with the state’s highest county tax rate could see its taxpayers on the hook for another $450,000 in debt.

Bamberg County Council is “partnering” with Orangeburg Broadband for this project which almost two years now since the application submission has gone nowhere. Rep. Bamberg should check the potential costs to his own constituents before pushing similar legislation onto other rural districts.

Walt Inabinet

Bamberg, SC

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FROM THE EDITOR …

Walt,

These are great points and I am grateful to you for allowing us to publish your letter. By the way, our news editor Mandy Matney did an excellent job in covering Bamberg’s bill – which is what prompted the editorial we published in the first place.

Back to your points regarding the hidden costs to local taxpayers and the potential for these projects to get sidetracked/ routed to select special interests – I believe it is vital that we keep those concerns in mind as this debate advances.

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