Monthly Archives: March 2024

Upcountry Fiber receives federal grant

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

COUNTY – The future of a partnership between Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative and WCFIBER looks bright, thanks to a $12.18 million federal grant designated by the South Carolina Broadband Office (SCBBO).

The two entities launched Upcountry Fiber in 2021 to provide access to broadband internet to underserved areas of Pickens County.

Officials made the funding announcement at the Pickens County Airport Monday afternoon.

“It’s important that we celebrate our victories and that’s exactly what we’re here to do,” Pickens County Council Chairman Chris Bowers said.

For Pickens County to continue to be “a place for our current and future generations, we have to continue to invest in modernization of our infrastructure,” he said. Regarding high-speed internet, “there are many areas here in Pickens County that are underserved or not served at all,” Bowers said, knowledge that was underscored “so truly” during the COVID-19 pandemic and the virtual schooling and work meetings that are a part of it.

“It became painfully obvious,” he said.

In addition to the federal grant, Upcountry Fiber will invest an additional $5.57 million, bringing the total to $17,752, 301 for the project, a release said.

Thanks to the additional funding, by the end of 2025, more than 9,100 addresses will have access to broadband, Bowers said.

Once the construction project paid for mainly by the newly-announced investments is complete, Upcountry Fiber will have invested approximately $70 million since its inception in broadband construction to previously underserved areas of Pickens County, the release said.

Nearly 1,400 Pickens County underserved addresses identified by SCBBO that currently do not have access to broadband internet service are included in the grant, the release said. An additional 7,760 addresses surrounding them will be able to sign up for broadband internet service before the end of 2025 due to this investment, the release said. Residents will be notified of construction and order timelines in the coming weeks.

“Internet is in fact the foundation for the 21st century,” said Jim Stritzinger, Director of the SC Broadband Office. “All 50 states are currently going through an infrastructure build.”

Prior to June of 2020, “the state of South Carolina had never made an investment in broadband before,” he said.

“Not a penny,” Stritzinger said.

The Upcountry Fiber project is “a whopper,” Stritzinger said.

His office is committing $21.4 million to the total project and Upcountry Fiber has committed to $10 million to the project.

“I want to do a special shoutout to Pickens County because things like this just don’t happen,” he said. “You’re all to be commended for getting in early and setting that strategic plan.”

The county has a separate $400,000 commitment to the project “to build some special piece-parts that are very needed,” Stritzinger said.

The total project is $35 million, he said.

“It’s going to connect 3,087 housing units…and over 330 businesses,” Stritzinger said. “It’s a big project. We don’t take ona project like this lightly.”

County Council Vice-Chair Roy Costner said county council recognized that internet access was a significant issue in the county.

“Those conversations started before Covid,” he said. “So when Jim (Stritzinger) comes along and starts talking about how this is going to work, we were just cheerleaders in the front row going ‘we’ve got to have a conversation.’”

The public-private partnership represents “all these people coming to the table at the right time to do the right thing for the people,” Costner said.

“Which is the coolest thing that I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Costner often hears from kids in his community about their struggle for internet access.

“It matters,” he said. “It’s not just numbers. The lives that you’re truly helping, is extraordinary.”

Rep. Davey Hiott said a question he’s often heard is “When are we going to get some internet in this county?”

“I’m here to say today that hopefully today is going to be the end of it,” Hiott said.

High-speed internet will make the area “even better for the folks who live here,” he said.

“It’s a great day in South Carolina, a great day in Pickens County,” Hiott said.

Upcountry Fiber’s Jeff Wilson said the partnership was formed through West Carolina Rural Telephone Cooperative and Blue Ridge Electric’s desire “to serve their members.”

“There was a great need,’ Wilson said. “Broadband internet is an equalizer to help these people in the rural areas, that live and work here, to have opportunities for better healthcare, access to jobs, to education and information through this investment.”

Upcountry Fiber’s Jim Lovinggood said the grants are very important in pushing the project forward.

“These are very capital-intensive projects,” he said. “They take a long time to build. They take a lot of money.”

Since the project began, the partnership has built over 2,800 miles of fiber, connecting almost 19,000 people who did not have access to internet services before that, Lovinggood said.

“We’re very proud of that,” he said. “It’s something that’s life-changing. It’s transformational. We also know we have more work to do. These grants help us do exactly that.”


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Easley YMCA open new facility

EASLEY — The Easley community came together last week for the grand opening of the new Easley YMCA, a state-of-the-art facility designed to promote health, wellness, and build community among its members, on March 21.

“The building is not our mission. Our mission is not to build spaces. Our mission is to change lives

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Possible drowning claims toddler’s life

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

LIBERTY — A toddler died last week after a possible drowning at his home in Liberty.

In a news release issued Thursday, Pickens County chief deputy coroner Andrew Wilson identified

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Last chance!!!

This week marks the final chance for Pickens County Courier readers to cast their ballots for their favorite businesses from across the county. Following the publication of this week’s ballot pages, readers will have until noon on Friday, April 5 to drop off their ballots at any of our ballot box locations.

County to honor Vietnam veterans

COUNTY — This Friday will be a special day to say thank you to all Vietnam War veterans around the county. The Pickens County Veterans Affair Office is asking county residents to honor those that served in Vietnam, following the Pickens County proclamation that was

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Man killed in work accident

EASLEY — A man died last week after he was crushed at the Easley business where he worked.

Pickens County chief deputy coroner Andrew Wilson identified the victim as Dillon Saint Jean-Schultz, 31, of Stokes Street in Greenville.

The incident occurred at 10 a.m. Monday, March 24 at NuLife Municipal Truck Center, located on

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Easley Rec recognized for excellence

EASLEY — The City of Easley Parks and Recreation department was celebrated earlier this month for bringing home multiple South Carolina Recreation and Parks Association (SCRPA) awards.

The department was honored with the prestigious SCRPA Park Excellence Award for Nalley Brown Nature Park. Additionally, the deparment was recognized as the

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LaPierre announces run for US Congress

PICKENS — Today, Michael LaPierre formally announced his candidacy for South Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District. Michael LaPierre made the following statement:

Our nation finds itself in a time of crisis. Our southern border is being invaded, bringing with it cartel, fentanyl, and other dangerous drugs, and our

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national leadership isn’t willing to make the hard decisions necessary to end this crisis.

And we’re facing a second invasion of economic migrants and their employers who are abusing worker visa programs. The results are lower wages and less jobs for Americans and higher housing prices that are putting the American Dream of home ownership out of reach for more and more South Carolina families.

I’m the only candidate who work to implement  the following policies:

  • Mandate the death penalty for drug, human, and sex traffickers at the border.
  • Introduce a formal declaration of war on the Mexican cartels.
  • Establish a militarized “No Entry Zone.” (N.E.Z.)
  • Suspend all asylum applications and direct the applicants to other, friendly nations that have been recipients of US foreign aid for decades.
  • End the H1B and other worker visa programs so employers here are forced to train and hire Americans.
  • Allow employers to prioritize hiring US citizens (which is currently illegal).

While other candidates pretend to be conservatives, I’m the only one who will take a hard line against the threats to our country and our state today. I’ll lead on these issues as a candidate and lead on these issues as a Congressman.

Michael LaPierre is available for interviews and may be reached at (864) 420-3290 or at


Christ is risen, and what it means for everyone

Throughout history, no one has made a greater impact than Jesus Christ.

So who is this person called Jesus? He was not just a man; He was God. It’s widely known that Jesus was born of a virgin 2,000 years ago, but He existed long before that. As the Son of God and second person of the Trinity, Jesus is the Alpha and

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The nature and purpose of religion

“Unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” — John 3:3

The sun is the source of life on Earth. Without this solar center of light and energy, the Earth would be dark and lifeless. If we reflect, we see that the true creator of life on Earth is God and that the sun represents the intermediary between His will

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