From Blandin Foundation’s recent assessment of the Blandin Community Broadband Program – the highlights from Redwood County…
Redwood County struggles with broadband access issues, ranking 81 of 87 Minnesota counties when it comes to reaching the state broadband speed goal of 25 megabits download / 3 megabits upload. As a Blandin Broadband Community, Redwood County undertook a feasibility study and market survey and have used the study to inform conversations with local internet providers about what might be done to improve broadband access across the county. In the meantime, the committee is working on providing new technology training, equipment and access, as well as on projects to connect the Lower Sioux Clinic and Community Center, and to launch a new telehealth initiative at Redwood Area Hospital.
One learning from the Steering Committee was the idea that you need to give people a good experience with broadband and technology; people won’t use broadband if the experience is negative. That’s why the focus on training, equipment and access to quality programs/applications is so important. When people have good experiences and learn how broadband can positively impact their lives, they will demand it – which will make it easier to make the business case to build it.
One project was to increase the library’s ability to serve residents who lack access to computers or the internet at home. The committee purchased 20 computers and two tablets for use by patrons at the Redwood Falls Public Library. The users have been pleased, and staff has reported a reduction in noise on the part of students who now can use the computers when they come to the library. According to library director Teri Smith, “In order to have a healthy rural community, all citizens must have access to needed resources, feel connected, and have a safe place to work or play. The computers and technology provided through this grant will help the library provide the services that help our community be and stay strong and connected.”
Coordinated marketing of the new training opportunities via print and social media proved extremely effective in increasing participation in the trainings. The committee created a Redwood Connect Facebook page, promoted Google Mapping for cities and businesses, and conducted internet usage and training surveys.
The committee also hosted social media events through a Lunch ‘n Learn technology series and community education classes, which culminated in a well-attended Social Media Rockstar event, a day-long, digital and social media marketing conference in rural Minnesota.
For a more recent look at Redwood County – check out the Redwood County profile I did earlier this year.