Will Williams, EDP Annual Meeting

Will Williams, the president and CEO of the Economic Development Partnership, provided a regional synopsis during the partnership's annual meeting Thursday.

Access to serviceable internet is of serious importance in Aiken County and surrounding areas, Economic Development Partnership President and CEO Will Williams said Thursday during the partnership's annual meeting.

"Many of our areas don't have broadband capabilities because of where they are," Williams said. "And so we're trying to come up with alternative solutions so as many homes as possible will have access to broadband."

The EDP – a nonprofit, public-private business development group – works throughout Aiken, Edgefield, Saluda and McCormick counties. 

Nearly 12,000 Aiken County residents lack access to even the most basic internet service, according to a connectivity study presented in September during a Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce breakfast forum.

Jim Stritzinger, the director of the Center for Applied Innovation and Advanced Analytics, unveiled the study that morning.

Internet access in the county is the strongest in the downtown Aiken area, beyond the bypass and in the greater North Augusta area.

Access tapers north and east of Williston; north of Wagener Road; and on both sides of I-20 headed toward the county line.

Williams, on Thursday, said internet access is proving more and more crucial for day-to-day life. A lack of access, then, proves problematic, he elaborated.

"Health care now, many of you may have already done this, but you can go to the doctor sitting behind your desk. … If you don't have the capability to be connected to the internet at your home, you're not going to be able to take advantage of that," Williams said, standing on stage in the Aiken Electric Cooperative's community room. "A lot of educational delivery is done via online resources. If you don't have access to broadband, well, that doesn't happen."

As of 2015, the Federal Communications Commission measures internet service against a 25 mbps download, 3 mbps upload hurdle.

In September, Stritzinger said a lack of proper internet access is a "really, really big problem," one that exists more noticeably in rural areas and smaller markets.

Williams further stressed the importance of internet connectivity given the growth of cyber in the region.

"We're trying to get that ecosystem ready," Williams said.

Colin Demarest is the government and Savannah River Site reporter with the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin