Elmore County Commission received the 2020 “Award for Efficiency and Innovation in County Government – Urban Category” from the Association of County Commissions of Alabama during the 92nd Annual Convention for its Broadband Expansion Partnership project.
The Elmore County Commission recognized the need for additional broadband infrastructure in the county and began formulating plans to address the issue in early 2017 according to press release from the county. After research and numerous meetings with communities and private sector innovators, the Elmore County Commission supported the Elmore County Economic Development Authority (ECEDA) partnering with Sain Associates to perform a broadband study for the county in the spring 2019.
The study’s intent was to provide an inventory of connectivity information, identify strengths and weaknesses of connectivity, and identify potential solutions to strategically address the issues.
Simultaneously, Central Alabama Electric Cooperative was formulating a plan to enter into the broadband arena. Through the formation of Central Access, the implementation process to install broadband within their service area was initiated. Phase I of their infrastructure installation would consist of connecting fiber to their power facilities while providing service to existing co-op members.
As completion of the county’s initial phase of the county broadband study approached, Elmore County Board of Education superintendent Richard Dennis contacted the county commission to seek assistance to identify ways to reach his student population remotely. When this contact was made, the County Commission was able to share about their active engagement with ECEDA for the last eighteen months developing a broadband plan for the entire county.
With the assistance of ECEDA’s consultant, Sain Associates, the county commission and ECEDA had begun utilizing data captured in the plan to identify weaknesses and strengths in the county’s broadband infrastructure network. With the study in hand, the partnership moved swiftly to identify currently available public hotspots and the interest of many countywide resources who would entertain hosting a potential hotspot.
During the gathering of this data, several municipalities expanded access to their facilities as public hotspots as well as Spectrum sharing their data of currently available public hotspots. These hotspots are designed to allow citizens to be able to access the free broadband connection from the safety of their vehicle at the specified locations allowing proper social distancing measures to be observed.
Central Alabama Electric Cooperative and Central Access have been a valuable asset to the group during the study process and during the hotspot discussion. When the Elmore County Commission, ECEDA, and ECBOE, brought this issue to the partnership, Central Access stepped up to help expand the availability of public hotspots.
Currently, there are 74 public hotspots available throughout the county between Central Access, Spectrum, Windstream, municipal, ECBOE and other community sites.
Plans are in place to increase the public hotspot opportunities to close to 100 sites over the next several months. To view the available and future public hotspots, the partnership has developed a digital map hosted on the Elmore County Commission website. The map is available on the Elmore County Commission website (www.elmoreco.org) at https://elmorecounty.maps.arcgis.com.
As additional public hotspots come online, the map will be updated so citizens have access to the most current set of active and available sites.