Strut Your Stuff Tour in Aitkin County: Community centers, wifi hotspots and community portal

This morning I was pleased head up to Aitkin to hear about our the local broadband adoption programs went through the IRBC (Iron Range Broadband Communities) program. It’s always inspiring to hear about what’s happening on the frontlines. As we often hear in these meetings – the technology is hugely beneficial but nothing compared to the opportunity to work together as a team. Broadband doesn’t have the same boundaries as cities, towns and counties have. Subsequently, cities, towns and counties are learning to works around boundaries.

As part of the IRBC experience, Aitkin County has been working with Bill Coleman on creating a broadband expansion strategy, focused on increasing use. Currently they are working on a few things: a community portal (with calendar), free community wifi spots and tech-equipped community centers.

You can read on for more of the details of each project. I’m going to leave the notes a little loose – because there might be something in there that helps another community deploy similar projects.

Community Calendar/Community Portal

  • Goes to districts
  • Chambers
  • Arts organization

Community centers

McGregor didn’t have a conference center so they’re very excited. The Chamber is a leader on the project in their area. The space is in a business that provides space to the Chamber. They’re working with a local business owner. They had a donation of furniture. Working on contracts. We’ll give them the equipment. Hoping to do classes. We will be able to stream classes from Workforce Center and ability to stream classes from here.

McGregor wants to expand economic development and to use technology to better work with other communities. Technology can help bridge community barriers to create a more regional spirit.

What equipment? Mobile computer lab, smart board, digital equipment, wifi. Trying to reach people who are online (young people on their phones.)

Community centers will be avilable for local groups.

Hill City is getting going too.

CTC is new provider – they have been great to work with.

Free wifi for Palaside and Hill City

  • Deploying wifi – some surprises with reach of wifi
  • Get community match from community (Lions Club or RIverfest fundraiser)
  • Worked with provider on equiment
  • Worked with local providers – need to have broadband, which means funding the right partner
  • Create a Flash page for sign in – EULA and space for advertising
  • Finding bandwidth is one of the bigger challenges
  • Plan to create a case study for other communtiies
  • Biggest lesson – people don’t want to spend money on something they think should be free.
  • There is a lot of interest
  • These will be the first wifi spots in Pallaside and Hill City
  • Each hotspot is $2000 but covers two football fields
  • Monthly costs $100-150/month
  • Management software $25-50/month

Community Calendar

  • McGregor wants their own page
  • Otherwise it’ll be an Aitkin County page
  • We’re focused on tourism activity than civic engagement (county commission meetings)
  • 3 schools will cooperate
  • Libraries
  • We can have Admin folks who can add things too
  • Who will own it? County website

PCs for People

  • We want to spread them throughout the county
  • Want to get into the right hands
  • Want to decentralize a little
  • It’s mostly figuring out the logistics


  • Want to connect care givers to resources – maybe bookmark specific sites
  • Inter-generational training

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