Elmore County, AL
PARTNER: Central Alabama Electric Cooperative (CAEC)
PARTNER: Elmore County Economic Development Authority (ECEDA)
PARTNER: Elmore County Board of Education
Elmore County, Alabama, where more than 40% of its citizens are underserved or unserved with broadband internet, has taken a proactive approach in addressing their broadband gaps by performing a broadband feasibility study. In a collaborative effort, Elmore County partnered with Central Alabama Electric Cooperative (CAEC), Elmore County Economic Development Authority (ECEDA), and the Elmore County Board of Education to begin a connectivity pilot program. ECEDA contracted with Sain Associates to conduct a feasibility study, which in turn helped identify grant areas and led to grant awards.
Sain’s feasibility study evaluated existing broadband infrastructure and coverage areas and provided a framework for planning and funding projects that address gaps in broadband service to its constituents or customers. Objectives of the study included:
- Define clear broadband coverage goals and benchmarks.
- Document existing broadband infrastructure and coverage areas.
- Develop a plan for addressing gaps in broadband service.
- Develop short and long-term recommendations.
- Compile information needed to apply for grant and/or other funding.
The result of the study was a report containing various maps that helped Elmore County better understand the gaps in broadband internet service. The report also provided recommendations that allow the client to formulate a plan for addressing those broadband shortfalls in their area of influence.
As part of the natural progression, a second phase was developed to provide the County with a prioritized and detailed list of potential broadband projects that could be used to begin expediting the proliferation of broadband internet service in unserved and underserved areas of the County. This part of the study involved identifying the most viable and cost-effective projects based on potential customers to be served, square miles of area to be served, and the overall cost of each project. After a preliminary screening of all potential projects, the list was narrowed to 10-15 projects and more detailed cost information was provided to allow the County to develop budgets for project implementations.
In 2020, Elmore County assisted the Board of Education (BOE) in identifying potential public Wi-Fi hotspots in locations that would best serve students in the unserved and underserved portions of the County. As an unforeseen benefit of our broadband studies, with information provided from the reports and student location data provided by the BOE, we were able to provide two essential products.
First, we developed a list of potential hotspot locations that would best serve the students of Elmore County who needed internet access the most. Second, we were able to prepare a web application published on the County website that shows the location of existing public hotspots as well as the location of proposed hotspots and their status as they come online.
Lack of connectivity brings a magnitude of challenges to numerous counties in Alabama. It was critical to provide internet connectivity for businesses and students as they worked and learned remotely. Luckily, there are solutions for bringing better internet to unserved or underserved areas.