Blandin Broadband Community Tour: Redwood County better training, hotspots, GIS and telehealth

Today they visited with the folks in Redwood County to hear about their Blandin Broadband Community projects. Redwood County is still struggling with broadband issues. They have a feasibility study and have recently completed a market survey so they are working on better broadband. In fact they have two providers that are applying for Minnesota State funds to deploy broadband. But even without the best broadband they have implemented a number of success programs – training for business, training for new computer users, computers distributed to low income households through PCs for People set up with low cost broadband through local providers and more. (I think it’s interesting to hear about the details of MVTV’s reduced rates policy in the PCs for People video below.

A great observation was the idea that you need to give people a good experience. People won’t use broadband if the experience is negative. That’s why the training, equipment and access to quality programs/applications is so important. But that’s quickly followed by the need for broadband to maintain the quality.

I think the PPT they have shared probably gets to the details even better than my notes – but I will also be sharing my notes below. (But I ask for kindness with proofing; we’re on the way to the next stop now and I wanted to get the notes up asap.)

The goal is to bring people together to focus on making the community better through shared goals. It all started with a group meeting. We broke up into groups to talk about what we needed.

Blandin funds were $90,848; total projects costs were $160,908.

Here are notes on

Redwood Connect – training space

Well managed training lab for the community. Training was needed. We’ve had 150 classes in the training center. We just had a Facebook for business class today. It’s been fun to see classes for elderly get better equipped to use technology.

The center has 12 desks. They are on a secured network at the Court house and we have a wifi network. We have made is easy to toggle between county network and public networks depending on what training is happening. There are smartboard in the room. We have some veteran-focused classes.

Training series –

The coordinate classes and found instructors. They provide 12 technology-based classes. Cost to attend is kept lower than $20. Revenue generated from the first series has supported the second year. They started with a successful lunch and learn series. They have now added a morning class called coffee and computers. There’s a broad base of instructors. We’ve served more than 100 people with training.

Google sent a toolkit for their “claim your google space” classes. It was very helpful for the class. We’ve done that class a few times. We’ve had about 25 business go through the training.

Monsanto deployed ipads throughout their factories and they used the training center to train their employees.

Marking – RADC has promoted the classes on their website and Facebook page.

Community survey – they recently released the results of the survey.

Broadband Connectivity – Two providers are applying for Minnesota Broadband Funds

Early Childhood Smartboards – Smartboard in three classrooms. Promote interactive classes and available to the public. The kids love them. They have only been available this school year so it’s still pretty new.

PCs for People

We sent letters to free and reduced folks that they were eligible for a drawing for a free computer. We were able to distribute 35 computers. And everyone won a computer! We’d do it again if we could. We are thinking about a way to be able to do this again next summer.

We partnered with Arvig and MVTV to offer lower cost access to new computer owners. That has been key to getting them online. MVTV created a new account type for lower income households. They can keep that reduced rate (and reduced speeds) for as long as they need it – if they upgrade to a faster speed, they are also upgraded to regular pricing.


Provide service to citizens to help them understand GIS applications and public data – and create a need for better broadband.

This has been very valuable to a few people BUT those people see an application for a wider audience. They have done training and word is getting out. Once people really need to know (for farm permits et al) the site will get used. There is a fun application within the system that Redwood is using where people are tracking graveyards online. SO the genealogy applications are big.

Redwood Library Computer Upgrades for Public Access

Upgraded the technology in the library to serve for people. The library serves everyone and a library card is free.

Purchased 20 new computer and 2 tablets. We reorganized the computer center. The computers and study rooms are well used – full.

Promoting better broadband

Doing basic training – Windows 10 training.

We bought a lot of tablets at a good rate and were able to do some train

Got a digital printer for the digital FAB LAB. They have a camera on the 3D printer. BUT the broadband in the meeting room was too slow to view it.

100 Mbps connection at the school costs $5125/month AND that bandwidth is not enough.

Facility upgrade for Lower Sioux Community

Updated the network to have wifi to the Lower Sioux Clinic, Community center and outlying buildings.

Multimode fiber is twice the cost of single mode. It’s hard to find someone who can o an installation on a water tower. The used a drone to assess the situation on the water tower.

We see people use the wifi at the clinic. As a kid watching a video in the waiting room takes the sting out of being at the doctor’s office.

They use hospitality wifi (same as at Jackpot Junction) is accommodates 500 users per AP. The limitation is really our bandwidth in, which is 100/100Mb. We have even been able to accommodate concerts at the casino.

Telehealth Initiative Redwood Area Hospital

Looking at care pathways has involved different platforms and different ways of doing things that has been a challenge but we’re working it out. We want to create a solution that is seamless to the user. To give them the service they need when they need it.

Right now the communication is site to site but we will be able to serve people in their homes.

The systems we are created at HIPPA compliant – that makes a big difference.



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