During the National Association of Counties (NACo) Annual Conference, the Elmore County Commission received the 2021 Achievement Award for the program “Elmore County Partnership to Expand Broadband Accelerates Deployment of Wi-Fi Hotspots to Assist with Virtual Learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic” in the Community and Economic Development category.

This award details the partnership between the County Commission, Elmore County Board of Education, Elmore County Economic Development Authority, and Central Access that expedited the deployment of WiFi Hotspots to unserved areas of Elmore County during the onset of the pandemic. The move was critical as it allowed students in remote areas of the county to access WiFi to complete school work.

While the Wi-Fi hotspots have their utility, the expansion of broadband infrastructure throughout the county is still the overall goal of the County Commission. Reliable broadband access for all citizens remains a top priority.

Elmore County Commissioner Bart Mercer serves on the National Association of Counties (NACo) Broadband Task Force. The NACo Broadband Task Force is currently made up of 42 county leaders with the same goal in mind – “if you can’t connect… you can’t compete.”

Mercer has taken the lead on this project from the Commission standpoint.

“My role in this project from the Commission standpoint is to provide ECEDA the direction needed to produce usable data," Mercer said. "Broadband is the electrical grid of the past. At one time the national push was to electrify areas. Now it’s to get fiber to houses. I get as many or more calls as a commissioner about broadband as I do potholes.”

During NACo’s Annual Conference, the Broadband Task Force released their report “Broadband Task Force: High-Speed Internet Is Essential For All Counties.”  The report is only a preliminary summary of the Task Force’s efforts and county officials will continue to produce new reports, policy recommendations, case studies, and how-to resources to help guide county officials throughout various stages of broadband deployment.

In the report, an example case study showcased was Elmore County’s Public Wi-Fi Hotspot Program – Virtual Learning.