Ely MN Broadband Efforts – Feasibility study, community portal and helping local businesses do online marketing

This month I am traveling with the Blandin crew to visit various Iron Range Broadband Communities – communities that have been making a concerted effort to improve broadband access in their area. Here are some of the highlights from Ely…

Feasibility Study – still in process with Design Nine. We’ve had some pole ownership issues and we have some pre-engineering work done. We’re looking at wireless in remote areas, such as YMCA camp. Now – how do we go from study to doing? We will be meeting with Frontier soon. The Timber Jay New had an article on the provider lately – that helped start a conversation.

PCs for People – distributed 50 PCs to families. Everyone loved them. No problem solving was involved. The project has helped the school talk about using more technology. It’s making parents happy. We selected the families not only by first come, first serve so that folks with perceived needs had a greater opportunity. We still have more folks who could use a PC. We are looking at bringing computers to older folks. In fact we’ve had school kids working with seniors to help them get on Facebook, email and use other tools that keep them engaged. The PCs for People folks are really nice.

We’ve got money from the Northland Foundation to continue on with the high schoolers working with seniors.

Ely Portal – http://elyite.com/ for tourism and recruitment. Includes videos with Ely community members. We’re hoping to be done March 1. We won’t be doing a community calendar because we already have several in the area. Mission is to recruit people to visit as tourists, as new community members and drawing from retired community.

Tech Center – newest project. There is a site established. Space has been donated by a local law firm. We have local hardware and software experts – to help us get started. There’s a committee and we’re starting this like a business. Hope to open April 1. There is fiber to the building – but it’s 15 years old. We have a new Executive Director at Incredible Ely.

Helping Local Business Better Use technology – funding for 7 businesses; got 31 applications. Created a website for online applications. Half the people who visited the site went to apply. Hoping to grow revenue through

Businesses in the area spend about $1400/month on digital marketing. That’s more than other areas so we could help get them smarter. Each business will get about 20 hours or consulting.

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