Blandin Foundation recognized for raising rural aspirations

Here’s a fun post for Thanksgiving. Twin Cities Business Magazine just published a nice article on the impact the Blandin Foundation has had on rural communities, including their work on broadband. The article frames the issue…

In 2003, when the foundation began work to expand broadband access to rural Minnesota, there was skepticism among some of Blandin’s rural constituencies. “Now the question is, ‘How can we get it? We need it,’ ” says Bernadine Joselyn, Blandin’s director of public policy and engagement, who has been spearheading the foundation’s broadband advocacy work.

“Telecommunications is absolutely critical to everything communities care about,” Joselyn says. Indeed, “broadband connectivity and the ability to use it are absolutely critical to everything that we care about as a foundation.” Without broadband, “you can’t participate fully in society today.”

A little about what I think is a key ingredient in Blandin’s success (helping communities create their unique home-grown solution)…

Blandin’s approach is that “communities themselves define what broadband is to them,” Joselyn says. It’s less an issue of speed than it is about access to what those communities want broadband to do. Many rural communities want broadband to expand access to education and health care.

And a mention of a broadband approach that has been successful and seems to be gaining more attention…

One solution that Blandin and some communities are exploring is establishing broadband cooperatives. In Grand Rapids, telephone cooperative Paul Bunyan Communications offers a broadband network that provides fiber-optic technology to the home.

In some cases co-ops might be in the best position to provide broadband for their communities. As Joselyn notes, these entities are invested in the success of the areas they serve. What’s more, co-ops can apply to the federal government for financial incentives and other assistance that “just aren’t available for for-profit companies,” Joselyn says.

Whatever types of entities help fill in the gaps in broadband coverage, the Blandin Foundation considers that crucial. “Without broadband, communities will not continue to thrive,” Joselyn says. “It’s absolutely critical for youth retention, business attraction, quality of life. It’s hard work, and rural leaders have to do it themselves. We’re here to stand with them and help connect them to resources and ideas and hopes and dreams to make sure that their communities continue to be prosperous and vibrant.”

This entry was posted in Blandin Foundation, MN, Rural by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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