Encore Helps Greenville County Schools Overcome Digital Deserts

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Friday, October 30th Greenville County Schools (GCS) Superintendent Dr. W. Burke Royster publicly unveiled plans to deploy 42 solar-powered, long-range WiFi units throughout the county. Local decision-makers and media gathered at the MT Anderson Support Center for the event highlighting Project Connect, a free internet access initiative targeting the county’s “digital deserts”, an effort in which Encore has been heavily involved. Dr. Royster was joined by Board of Trustees Chairperson Lynda Leventis-Wells and Greenville County Council Chairman Butch Kirven to discuss the project with event attendees. Senior Account Executive Stacy Kuper and Account Manager Joy Snelgrove, who both played a role in moving the project forward, were in attendance representing Encore.

When schools shifted to distance education earlier this year in response to the pandemic, it became apparent that many households in the area did not have adequate internet access, negatively impacting students’ ability to learn. As the largest school district in the state, GCS district leaders faced unique challenges because of the sheer size of the student population, expanse of the district, and the many rural dead zones where internet is simply not affordable. To address this issue, GCS amplified school building WiFi signals to extend to school parking lots and deployed WiFi-enabled buses to rural areas, but still found that most 1,000 students could not connect to the district network.

To ensure these students receive equitable educational opportunities even in these unusual times, GCS proposed deploying solar-powered WiFi units at public and private locations, such as local churches and Greenville County facilities. This solution provides widespread and long-term benefits not only to students living in the targeted digital deserts but also to the community at large. Greenville County generously pledged $248,000 in CARES Act funding to purchase components to build and install self-contained solar units that will provide free internet access to students, community residents, and businesses alike. In addition to Encore, the project was also supported by corporate partners Cradlepoint, Network Controls, Sun Surveillance, and Synnex Corporation.

Not only will Project Connect see that Greenville County stays connected through the pandemic, but it will continue to support underserved areas well after the current situation has passed. The initiative will provide internet access to students, local businesses, and community residents should inclement weather or another emergency arise. Elderly and homebound individuals in these areas will especially benefit from access to telehealth and other essential services that can be performed online. Encore is honored to be chosen as a partner for Project Connect, as we are deeply invested in the Greenville area community and understand the importance of giving back.