From Blandin Foundation’s recent assessment of the Blandin Community Broadband Program – the highlights from Martin County…
Martin County went into the BBC program with high hopes for raising the level of service throughout their county. However, due to the complexity of the issue and the tough economics involved they decided to prioritize adoption projects while they built the knowledge and partnerships required to improve availability and access.
One such project was an “App Camp,” offered to 5th and 6th grade students in several of the county’s public and parochial schools. Participating students learned the basics of computer programming by building mobile apps. The camps were fully 13 enrolled and generated a lot of interest in the community, with area newspapers publishing photographs of students receiving their program completion certificates. They also enjoyed broad parental support.
Another successful project was the community calendar. The Steering Team was aware of the need of diverse organizations to collaborate better when it came to community activities. In small towns, when a spelling bee, hockey tournament and a wedding or two fall on the same weekend, amenities – particularly lodging – can be stressed! Their biggest challenge wasn’t generating support or funding from key organizations, but marketing and training to get those organizations to actually use it consistently. They learned that the marketing was well worth it, and the calendar has been a great success. They’ve already received positive reviews from visitors to the area, including a couple who learned of a kayaking club, and were able to make contact, borrow kayaks and attend an event while in town.
Martin County’s efforts came full-circle in fall 2016 when they used the results of the Robust Network Feasibility Study they conducted as part of their participation in the program to apply for a Border-to-Border Broadband Development grant from DEED’s Office of Broadband. The county was awarded $1.68 million to serve 1,784 unserved households, 51 unserved businesses and nine unserved community institutions.
For a more recent look at Martin County – check out the Redwood County profile I did earlier this year.