Blandin Broadband Community Martin County Update: Digital responsibility, training and feasibility study

Today we met with the Blandin Broadband Community Team in Martin County. Very fun to hear about their projects. It’s great to see the community come together. One project that was unlike others I had seen was the Digital Responsibility work – helping students, parents and the community understand online security, privacy and bullying. They have a series of events planned for the fall.

They also admit that the hardest conundrum for them was/is access. Because it was so hard they shelved that topic for a while – but it’s back off the shelf and in their hands. They have worked on a Feasibility Study and are pursuing Border to Border MN Broadband grant funds.

Here you can check out videos from the day:

Here are their PPT slides

And my notes, which may be a little rough.

The Martin County initiative started in 2014. Business people recognized the need. Local policymakers get interested – in part after attending a Blandin conference. Starting with a visioning session in the spring of 2015.

In the visioning meeting we learned that broadband access was at the top of everyone’s list but it was so hard it got pushed to the back burner. But we’re pleased to hear that access is back on the front burner.

Panning Outcomes

  • Broadband in rural areas inadequate
  • Need for education and training
  • Need of devices to improve connectivity

Outcomes surprises

  • Speed was lacking in cities
  • We have many tech-savvy employees
  • Library speeds/capacity was too slow
  • Industrial Park was inadequate
  • Committee was driven

App Camp- for all schools

It came in under budget  so they were able to do more. They know the public schools will be able to continue with the program. But they want to make sure that all the school (parochial too) can continue with the efforts.

The media center people/principal did a family camp that was a bridge off the original camp. Community Ed is now providing some coding. The sustainability and interest is there. It’s branching out in all locations.

We have several local foundations that we haven’t yet tapped for programs like this.

Coffee Connections

Sessions in every community – which means a room with computer and informal training. People came to the session with any question and any devices so the questions were broad. We had 24 sessions and served 182 people!

Community Calendar

We saw calendar conflicts in the community. We were in trouble when we had a hockey tournament, spelling bee and three weddings in one weekend. SO we met to see how we could work together to give everyone (esp visitors) a better experience.

The partners were excited at the prospect and were happy to pay for the calendar but we needed help to promote the community calendar. Going forward the partners are willing and able to help financial support the calendar and the marketing.

It’s been tough a little different communities to be able to work together – because of the limitations with the technology not because of the communities.

Business Technology

Worked on classes for social media and online presence for local businesses.

We tried social media breakfast with some reticence – but they have been very popular. All of the instructors have come from Iowa. Next year we want instructors from MN. We have used very little money. This project is very sustainable. We get sponsors and attendees donate at the door.

The chamber is a trusted guarantor for Google Places. We had an intern work with local businesses. They took the Google Places curriculum an ran with it. We are ready to do another series.

We have hired a social media coordinator.

Digital Responsibility

We had some local kids who got into trouble with bullying. SO much trouble they law was involved.

We started a Cyber Smart program. Some programs are for kids; some are for parents’ some are for community members.

The Coffee Connection might use this as well – especially with folks with disabilities and folks looking for a job.

PC s for People

PCs for People founder is from near the area so he was very involved. We distributed 50 computers. They got the football team to help distribute the connection.

It was really an opportunity for volunteers to connection with folks who needed the computers. And for the people in need to get computers. The County had actually done this once before – around 1996. They would like to continue the effort.

WiFi Hotspots

They have wifi spots on the buses from state funding. The received a grant for $50,000 through MN department of Education for school bus routers an MiFis for underserved students in the area

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

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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