Broadband (copy) (copy)

Berkeley County wants its residents to download an app to test their broadband speed, so it can decide where to spend money on connection improvements. File

Berkeley County is asking for its citizens' help in figuring out who in the county doesn't have adequate broadband internet service. 

Governments looking to make investments in broadband, which includes fiber optic, satellite, cable and DSL connections, need to know exactly where service is lacking in order to know where to spend. 

But information publicly available from the Federal Communications Commission is considered unreliable and incomplete, because providers know how to game its system. 

So Berkeley County wants residents to download an app on their phones called TestIT. Data collected through the app would help the county obtain funding for communication projects. No personal information is collected through the app.

"This will help document areas, often rural areas, that do not have adequate signal for cell phone use," the county said in a press release. "This app will allow citizens to test their broadband speed from anywhere."

Some 537,000 people in South Carolina don’t have an adequate internet connection at home — about 11 percent of the state’s population, and 26 percent of the rural population.

Data from the FCC suggests more than 90 percent of the county has at least three companies to choose from offering a standard speed. Access to faster internet is more scarce.

Data from TestIT could offer a more precise picture. The app is simple, requiring the user only to turn on their location services and press a button to start the test. 

Counties across the country are participating, according to the National Association of Counties

Telecom union firms up a contract

A strike of AT&T workers last week ended Wednesday when the union Communications Workers of America said it had struck a "handshake deal" with the telecommunications giant. The union began a strike last weekend over alleged unfair labor practices. 

Around midnight on Thursday, the union told its members it had solidified the details of a new contract.

Details included a 13 percent wage increase, seniority protections and a 1 percent pension increase for each year of the 5-year agreement.

"I have never been more proud of being a CWA member than I have been over these last few days," Richard Honeycutt, the union's Southeast district vice president, said in an email to members.

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The robot takeover

A West Columbia-based pharmaceutical company says it is partnering with the University of South Carolina to ramp up the company's operation of filling syringes with medication. 

The old-fashioned method is to fill syringes by hand in a sterile setting. Nephron Pharmaceuticals says automating that process is more sterile and more accurate. 

Researchers at the university's College of Engineering and Computing will work out of a new robotic compounding lab at UofSC's aerospace center. Compounding is the process of combining drugs to create specialized medications. 

Bird's-eye view

For now it only shows a level gravel lot and construction vehicles, but in the coming months a video stream should show a six-story tech-focused office building rising from the dirt. 

The Charleston Digital Corridor installed a camera at the site of the new Charleston Tech Center last week. The center broke ground in mid-July. 

The building is scheduled to open in 2020. The Digital Corridor, a tech-focused business development group, will be an anchor tenant. Plans also call for an 820-space parking deck.

Reach Mary Katherine Wildeman at 843-937-5594. Follow her on Twitter @mkwildeman.