Final Reflections from the Blandin Broadband Conference

I’m excited to be able to post final notes on the 2009 Blandin Broadband Conference, Realizing Our Broadband Future: Getting from Here to There from Bernadine Joselyn. We’ve got her immediate takeaway messages in video and written reflections from the car trip home. If you have reflections to add – please post them as comments below. We’d love to read them.

It was great seeing folks at the conference. On my drive home I did some thinking about what we’d heard:
Getting from Here to There turned out to be a powerful theme. Our student guests from Mankato and Morris made it clear that they expect the world they step into to be wired; I think that will happen only if we do the work ourselves. That’s the main message I got from listening to our friends from the “Intelligent Communities” of Eindhoven and Fredericton. And even though the task is daunting, our morning discussions suggested that we’re making some progress.

It was encouraging to hear – from Mike O’Connor and John Stanoch, among others – a new optimism about prospects for deepened cooperation and collaboration, including in places like Grand Rapids and Monticello where they have failed in the past. As a number of community champions pointed out, public-private partnerships are one of the key strategies identified by the Task Force to help Minnesota achieve it’s “among top five” goal. Now we need to turn our attention to creating the regulatory environment and designing the incentives needed to help make more of that happen more easily. The Blandin Community Leadership Program’s adage, that leadership is ‘something you have to do yourself but can’t do alone,’ is truer than ever.

One aspiration everyone seems to share is to be “good ancestors” as Jim Baller said.

John O’Brien’s eye-popping presentation of a future in which my umbrella will change colors with the weather was arresting. And hearing about software that can save me from sending embarrassing emails late at night and teach me typing with the help of vampires was only vaguely reassuring. John’s challenge to see the contradictions in work place policies that simultaneously tolerate personal phone calls but forbid visits to Facebook (especially in the light of one student’s confession that 8 hours without Facebook would be a demotivating hardship for her), made me look long and hard at the face of the woman in his C.A.V.E. slide (Colleagues Against Virtually Everything). Is that me? Is that our organization? Our employers?

In the coming days we’ll be loading up the conference website with as much content as we can harvest from all the presentations. The Blandin Foundation’s Broadband Strategy Board is serious about responding to Mike O’Connor’s exhortation to scour the Task Force recommendations and be alert to ways we can contribute to the work of getting them done. There are lots of possibilities.

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