Blandin Broadband Communities Update Carlton County: Working as a county

It is with some sadness I report on our last Blandin Broadband Community meeting. It has been great to learn about all of the projects happening throughout the communities.

Carlton County has been focused on getting people using devices. I really liked the idea of a Community Education class that invited attendees to come in with their new devices (post-Christmas) to work with students and others to ask questions and learn on a one-to-one basis.

They knew part of their mission was to improve broadband outside of towns so they’ve done a good job with hotspots you can check out at the library. Somehow they have a special government account with Verizon that offers unlimited access!! That’s worth looking into! And they are working on a feasibility study to make more systemic changes. Preliminary reports put  $70.5 million price tag on FTTH throughout the county – but what an investment!

Community Goals:

  • Increase free internet sites in rural areas
  • Increase areas for telehealth & telework
  • PCs for People project
  • Create marketing for areas to retain/attract technology opportunities
  • Increase student use of technology

Technology in the School

Chomebooks, curriculum and programs in the classooms. Kids really like it. Real world skills. It’s been well integrated.

Statring in 6th grade kids bring devices home. That’s great for the kids who have acces but not every kid has access.

They are a Google school.

You need teachers with energy and imagine away

Community Ed

People came into class after Christmas with their new devices. They worked with stuednts and community ed classes. It was very successful and they’ll do it again.

Apply Life

Hotposts in the libraries

Devices in the area

Training using Chromebooks

Trained 165 people over 47 sessions – and support via the Reference desk

Need to keep classes small, especially with folks who were very new to devices

Nice to have someone train the trainers especially for advanced topics


Got some fun techies tools

2 Raspberry Pi classes

3D printers

Chalenge was fundding time to do the classes.

Tech open house worked too.

Partnered with group focused on seniors too – which increased the budget.

Hotspot Project

Check out access at the library.

Need to have a library card.

Need to be in Verizon’s area.

Getting up to 20 Mbps – often use 20G in a weekend.

Soon patrons will be able to check out a device and hotspot.

Connect Moose Lake Project

A messaging service where emergency-type messages get broadcast on a wide range of places from the monitors at the school to public access.

They had to overcome legacy issues.

Might go with a less complex system if we did it again.

Are the library patrons going more digital?

For books, no. But people have to use technoloy for taxes, unemployment, scholarships…

Wifi on the buses

The biggest issue was that the school tech guy got sick.

We use AT&T because it worked best on the bus routes.

We also learned that the real cost was the service – not the MiFi equipment.

Can have up to 15 students use it at once and once they get close to the datacap the connection will slow down to the point that kids will get frustrated and log off.

This is a 2-two pilot for us. We will be judging the actual use. We wonder if kids won’t perhaps be using their own cell access.

Lifelong Learning Projects

Working to help people maximize the use of computers.

The iPads are helping to get

Feasibility Study

Went through CNS

Initial finding

Did a survey – 100 respnses.

  • 18 proviers identified – mostly CenturyLInk
  • 75% of Frontier customer are very unsatisfied
  • 68% of Dish were unsatisfied.
  • 80% would be OK with county getting involved with broadband access

Cost estimates for improvement:

  • Full county $70.5 million
  • To only un $45.8 million
  • Backbone only $3.5 million
  • Backbone and 3 communities $5 million

We are talking with 3 providers about 2017 MN Grant Applications – to focus on unserved areas.

PCs for People

50 refurbished computers to distribute

Promoted opportunity at county fair and promotion in newspapers.

Majority of computers went to senior citizens. Only 3 applications from families with children. And folks seem to be using them – we’re getting questions. And they can get reduced rates from Frontier and CenturyLinks.

This entry was posted in bbc, Blandin Foundation, 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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