The Minneapolis Star Tribune highlights Twin Cities-based communities with websites that are not meeting the needs of current residents, nor attracting new residents to the area. The article echoes the importance of a lesson learned at the 2010 Fall Broadband Conference; people, especially young people, are making decisions on where to work, live and play based on community websites. Some rural communities, such as Windom and Winona, heard the message and have improved their digital welcome mats. http://wp.me/p3if7-1PK
Bill Coleman, coach for the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) projects, offers advice to communities looking at broadband in terms of convening a leadership group. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Pk (Communities interested in applying to the Blandin Broadband Communities program are required to have a leadership team in place.) http://wp.me/p3if7-1OD
Broadband Expansion Still Needs Help
In August, the FCC declared that broadband is not yet being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion. In Minnesota, they found that 8 percent of the population does not have access to fixed broadband. In non-rural areas the percentage is .8 percent; in rural areas that percentage climbs to 27.7 percent. http://wp.me/p3if7-1PD The report echoes findings from the latest Akamai report, which indicates that while the average broadband speed may be increasing in the US, the US is still trailing other countries in terms of broadband speed and adoption. http://wp.me/p3if7-1OP
Minnesota Broadband News
The Anoka fiber project is about 75 percent finished with completion expected in October 2012. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Ph
LakeWood Health Center in Baudette uses telemedicine technology to provide additional e-Emergency services through a partnership with Sioux Falls-based Avera Health system. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Q4
Benton County provides a recap of the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) projects in their area, including increased public access to computers, an improved community website, telemedicine efforts that keep residents in their homes longer and increased wireless access in the schools and school campuses. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Ow
Cloquet Valley Internet Initiative review the results of their recent broadband satisfaction survey and find dissatisfaction with the current level of service, as well as high interest in subscribing to better services. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Pd
U-reka Broadband, consultants working with Cloquet Valley, outline some of the broadband opportunities available to the community. http://wp.me/p3if7-1PY
Cook County provides a recap of the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) projects in their area, including social media efforts to promote good health, computer distribution efforts, training and higher education programs and interactive community websites. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Ot
Deer River School District and their telepresence classrooms are featured in national article on how technology is being used to improve education. http://wp.me/p3if7-1PO
Involta Data Centers plans for grand opening on September 26. http://wp.me/p3if7-1PV
Kittson County is celebrating the ARRA-funded fiber network being installed in their community. http://wp.me/p3if7-1OI
Lake County receives more attention for the efforts to expand broadband in their area. http://wp.me/p3if7-1OW Part of the problem may lie in the definition of served, underserved and unserved.
The ARRA-funded Broadband Access Project (BAP) celebrates the first graduation of its Asian Media Technology Training, which taught students the five most common ways to use media in today’s world. http://wp.me/p3if7-1PS
Minnesota courtrooms are using technology to facilitate remote hearings, remote monitoring of courtrooms and centralized citation payment system. http://wp.me/p3if7-1OZ
Redwood County will be working with Compass Consulting on a broadband feasibility study for the community. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Pa
St Paul is looking at working with Ramsey County on a fiber network. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Oz The network is getting attention from local incumbent providers http://wp.me/p3if7-1Pw and community network proponents. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Q7
The Minnesota State Fair publicizes free wi-fi for fair goers. http://wp.me/p3if7-1Ps
Upper Minnesota River Valley
Working with PCs for People and five areas schools, Upper Minnesota River Valley was able to distribute 100 computers to families that would not otherwise have access to a computer at home. http://wp.me/p3if7-1P2
- September 11: Minnesota Broadband Task Force Meeting (Thief River Falls) http://tinyurl.com/7n2syt8
- November 1: Tekne Awards http://www.tekneawards.org
- November 13: Minnesota Broadband Task Force Meeting (Duluth) http://tinyurl.com/7n2syt8
- November 13-14: Fall Broadband Conference – Building Our Connected Future: Minnesota’s Better with Broadband! (Duluth) http://tinyurl.com/8q8hakw
Looking for more events? Check out Tech.MN’s calendar http://tech.mn/events/. Many events are based in the Twin Cities but it is a comprehensive list. (If you have an upcoming event, consider submitting it.)
Stirring the Pot
I am often surprised at how few economic developers see the link between technology and economic development. Likewise, I am surprised at the lack of engagement by telecom providers with the economic development community.
Broadband networks and technology adoption are at the heart of almost every core component of economic development strategy. Economic developers need to ask themselves some questions about broadband availability and use in their communities. Some examples:
- Data centers – Attracting a data center is a great economic development score, providing tax base with few needs for municipal services.
- If your community is not well positioned to attract a data center, does it means that your broadband network has shortcomings?
- Entrepreneurial development – Many entrepreneurs use broadband technology as a critical component of their business. Entrepreneurs are great for adding vitality to underutilized properties in downtown areas. Technology can substitute for labor or provide virtual connections to support services as start-ups seek to minimize expenses.
- Can entrepreneurs find affordable space with adequate broadband services in your community?
- Do you have an established network of business support services, including networks, web development and other tech services?
- Business retention and expansion – Many factors keep businesses from growing and thriving, including the lack of understanding of how technology can increase productivity and improve marketing and sales.
- What are the technology deficits in your community that are hampering company growth?
- Broadband connectivity availability or cost? Lack of tech support? Lack of tech strategy?
Economic developers need to increase their understanding about how well their communities are positioned to compete for new businesses and support existing businesses in a world where connectivity and technological sophistication are growing in importance every day. Providers need to recognize how important their operations are to supporting the economic vitality of the communities that they serve. Let’s come together to make it happen!