From Blandin Foundation’s recent assessment of the Blandin Community Broadband Program – the highlights from Chisago County…
Chisago County leveraged their participation in the Blandin Broadband Communities program for a wildly successful entry in Frontier Communications’ America’s Best Communities (ABC) competition. Over the course of the competition, the Chisago Lakes Area was awarded $150,000 to implement projects to promote their region. Many of the projects were born of the broadband steering committee’s visioning work. The team made it to the final round in the national competition, and their enthusiasm to work on the projects begun under the competition’s auspices has yet to wane.
Chisago County’s “Got Internet” survey yielded some striking results: of the 876 respondents, 35% said they would telecommute if they had better broadband; 45% would use it for schoolwork; 31% would open a business; and 94% would subscribe to better broadband if it was available. One respondent commented: “My son says he will never move back to Chisago County from college – not with the current broadband.” Another: “I am a realtor – people do not buy in this area because the broadband is not sufficient.”
Chisago County broadband advocates have used these results to inform the state-wide debate over public funding for un- and under-served rural communities. Steering Committee chair and HRA/EDA Director Nancy Hoffman used the survey results in testimony before the Governor’s Broadband Task Force and House and Senate committees.
Chisago’s BBC and ABC Competition activities leaned heavily toward leveraging the capacity of the Internet to market their area, including tourism, arts and culture. These efforts include the creation of an integrated, collaborative website where cities, attractions and other agencies can now list their events in a “no-wrong-door” portal to the region; support for the Old Hwy 61 Coalition, a group of businesses and community boosters which works to preserve and promote the old thoroughfare including through the use of GIS-enabled map applications, and through extensive promotion of utilizing Google Maps to promote area businesses.
For a more recent look at Chisago County – check out the county profiles I did earlier this year.