Lac qui Parle Computer Commuter

Thanks to my friends at Lac qui Parle EDA for sending me the lastest on their broadband application project…

The LqP Computer Commuter is the result of a grant project that began in early January of 2010. The Lac qui Parle County Economic Development Authority (LqP EDA) has been working on promoting and expanding broadband service within the county for the past two and one-half years. As a result of these broadband efforts Lac qui Parle County came to mind for Congressman Collin Peterson when he was approached by the TDF Foundation in late December 2009. The TDF Foundation was searching for a potential site to install a computer lab in rural Minnesota. This search included finding a community that would be willing to apply for one of their computer lab grants. When the call came into the LqP EDA, Director Pam Lehmann formed a task force (computer lab committee) to brainstorm ideas for a computer lab project in Lac qui Parle County. This task force determined that there was not just one town within our county in need of a computer lab – there were several. And the idea for a mobile computer lab was born!

In February an application was submitted to the TDF Foundation for a handicapped accessible mobile computer lab that would travel to the communities in Lac qui Parle County offering access to computers and to internet service for anyone in the area at no charge. The application included details of a plan to schedule specific days and times to be in each community. The unit would be open to people of all ages and folks with any level of computer experience. To help educate folks with little or no computer experience classes will be offered for small groups or individuals as needed. When available the unit could also be leased by area businesses/organizations wanting to do staff trainings without significant travel expenditures.

Upon receipt of the application the TDF Foundation was very intrigued by the concept of offering this lab in multiple locations within one county. Due to limited funding available, research began on the costs associated with a mobile unit and a secondary plan was established for transporting laptops to be used in each community as a portable lab. Conversations were had with residents regarding interest in this lab, and talks with Farmers Mutual Telephone and Frontier Communications regarding the overall project were very positive.

By the end of March, six of the communities expressed interest in supporting this project and having this service available to their residents and the surrounding rural residents as well. The communities of Bellingham, Boyd, Dawson, Madison, Marietta and Nassau each committed a site for use by the lab whether mobile or portable.
In April we received word that our application was nearing approval, but the cost of a mobile unit was significantly more than the TDF Foundation was able to fund. By the time the final agreements were ready to sign the “computer lab committee” agreed that an application should be submitted to the Blandin Foundation for their LightSpeed Grant Program to help fund the purchase of a mobile unit and the modifications needed. On May 14, 2010 an agreement was signed with the TDF Foundation for the computers and technology for a computer lab in Lac qui Parle County. On June 3, 2010 official notification from the Blandin Foundation was received that our grant request was approved.

Today the “computer lab committee” is working to find a unit to modify for the LqP Computer Commuter. The process to find a coordinator for this lab is also in the works and we hope to hire someone before the end of June.

Watch for more details on when the LqP Computer Commuter will be coming to your area!

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