Kandiyohi County Connecting with Wi-Fi: successes and lessons learned

Kandiyohi County recently submitted the final report for their Blandin Foundation-backed recent community Wi-Fi project. I am happy to post their slightly modified report here in hopes that it will help others with similar projects…

Kandiyohi started out with a goal to create multiple Wi-Fi hotspots selected to impact several communities and multiple age groups and populations in Kandiyohi County. Here are the locations an reasoning behind each:

  1. Willmar Civic Center – host of many events. Broadband access needed for vendors and operations.
  2. The United Way Growmobile – direct programming and educational support to over 100 families each year.
  3. Central Community Transit – over 20 routes with stops in every Kandiyohi County community.
  4. Willmar Public Schools and New London Spicer Schools – student access for homework during daily routes and special events. Also for backup of critical data needs in the case of an extended electrical or data outage.

They ran into some challenges. There was a change in project leadership, which meant a little catching up but also securing the equipment was more cumbersome than expected as the four mobile units were not able to join a data plan together as originally planned and separate plans for access and data had to established.

But in the end, the challenges were overcome and the hotspots are in place. Here are some of the rewards…

  • Willmar Civic Center – Wi-Fi installation at the Willmar Civic Center is completed. The network was instrumental in successful events, including a regional curling tournament, regional math competition, several community and regional marketing shows, and much more.
  • The United Way Growmobile now has Wi-Fi access while traveling to and from daycares, as well as child and family events and at the remote locations of United Way family events. United Way staff are able to input data and reports during the many hours that they ride the bus each day.  A new curriculum can be accessed at event locations because of the mobile Wi-Fi access.
  • Central Community Transit (CCT) now has constant access to the Internet for riders from every Kandiyohi County community.  CCT recently expanded their service area to include Meeker County.  Residents of Meeker County benefit from the project in addition to the original goals.  Two CCT buses received the hotspot equipment and access and they can be moved to other buses as needed.
  • Willmar Public Schools and New London Spicer Schools have been able to add Wi-Fi hotspots on four buses because of the project.  Students are extremely thankful.  They have utilized the broadband access to complete homework while on the buses.  An unexpected positive outcome is that behavior incidents have decreased on buses with installed Wi-Fi.  Superintendent Carlson notes, “This is wonderful for our students when 1,000 hours of web research translates to 1 GB.  This is a great opportunity for our students who only have Wi-Fi access in our buses.”
  • Additional Outcome:  Wi-Fi hotspot antennas were placed in three locations to provide a place for internet access to Kandiyohi County residents that have no access in their homes.  MVTV Wireless made a contribution to the project to allow for two years of free access through the Wi-Fi hotspot installations.  The locations receiving the service include Pennock Community Center, Blomkest Community Center and Lake Andrew Township Hall.
This entry was posted in Blandin Foundation, Community Networks, MN, Wireless 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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