Extending broadband the extra mile in Chisago County

Blandin Foundation gets some interesting inquiries through the Blandin on Broadband blog and through our Toolkit web sites. A recent submission gave us reasons to celebrate and to ponder.

A family in rural Chisago County told us that they have not been able to get broadband services due to their rural location. DSL was not available at their remote location according to Frontier Communication’s customer service center. A similar situation exists for a significant numbers of Minnesota households as documented by the Center for Rural Policy, Connect Minnesota and as observed by my regular rural Minnesota travels.

Broadband is especially important to this particular family. One household member is seeking additional education and employment. Another is recovering from serious injuries suffered in an accident. Education, employment and health care-the trifecta of broadband killer applications!

When we received this email, I took a look at my telephone exchange map, confirming that Frontier was the provider. I also took a look at the Genesis Wireless coverage maps as they provide fixed wireless services in east central Minnesota, but they do not provide service in the area. Then I sent an email and made a call to JoAnne Johnson at Frontier. JoAnne is a friend, former colleague at Onvoy and briefly at Community Technology Advisors, and a member of the MN Ultra High Speed Internet Task Force.

JoAnne made some calls, Frontier’s staff did some investigation, and some new technologies were deployed to extend DSL the extra distance to our emailer’s home. At Blandin, we got some great satisfaction from helping this one family. Frontier got a new customer. And our emailer and family have enhanced Internet access. If we checked back in six months or a year, we might find a household that has been able to address some or all of its critical issues through the use of broadband.

While our little intervention was successful, this is no way to ensure broadband access to all Minnesotans. Blandin Broadband Principles call for ubiquitous, affordable broadband that enable our citizens to do what needs to be done over the Internet. We will continue our work to promote this concept across the state as the state broadband task force considers policies and federal and state officials invest broadband stimulus monies.

Make your own and your community voices heard directly to elected and appointed officials and through the MN Broadband Coalition! Now is the time.

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