Broadband efforts in Mountain Iron – lots of training and getting kids excited

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. The latest stop was Mountain Iron. It was fun to hear about how students and teachers are getting excited (and re-excited) about their school subjects with new projects born of new tools and broadband technology. You can read on about specific programs and check out the video below if you want greater details on what and how it’s happening.

WiFi on Buses

Got wifi installed on 7 buses (out of 9) and it’s going well. Just needed to explain to folks that the WiFi is built off cell network. SO if you’re phone doesn’t work, your WiFi isn’t going to work either and there are patches in the area where that’s the case.
Kids are great when they have something to do. The blue screens have not been a distraction.
Ongoing costs? Not more than $1000/month and it’s well worth it.
The teams use the connection when they are traveling – especially when some of that travel gets late.

Tech Training
We do a class every other week. Weather has been an issue but we’re working with Community Education.
We are offering a range of Google classes, Pinterest, Facebook, getting elderly people on to Facebook is a big draw.

PCs for People
Distributed about 50 computers. Have about 10-15 left over, some are surplus in case of damage. Distributed through the community center. People had to come for an orientation and the event was announced through the schools and we called folks that would probably benefit from a free computer.
TO distribute we got a truck and a group of 7th grade boys.
The folks from PCs for People were fantastic.

Great Scott Township Website
The website is coming along. It should be done soon.
Kinney has been less successful. There are only 160 people in the town. Maybe we could get them to do a Facebook Page.

Business Technology Training

We’re putting together classes we think business would like: use marketing to hire people, how to deal with reviews online, mastering social media, Facebook Live, How to make a nonprofit go digital and see the impact. Art Unlimited would do most of the training.
Use the usual routes for advertising – email blasts, newsletters, social media and asking other to spread the word.
Coming up – we will have business consultants working with businesses.

Feasibility Study Update
Trying to get a model to attract providers to our projects and possibly going after RUD funding. Will be presenting to the County soon. The Governor spoke recently and mentioned broadband – we hope people were listening. We have a time to talk to Mediacom soon and hope to line up others.
Eventually we will take out individual pieces of the project to our communities and try to find localized solutions.

Trying to work with the county on some policies – such as a resolution on Dig Once for the area.

Upcoming Projects

  • Getting students STEM/STEAM at younger ages.
    Looking at classes on drones – building, driving and licensing.
  • The Maker Space will be in the high school. But the high school is connected to the grade school. We will look at inviting Community Ed – but first we want to make sure we are in good shape for school needs. Ordered 3-d printers for the Maker Space.
  • WiFi spots – Great Scott Township is in a tough place because there’s not cell access but that also means there’s great need. They want to hire students to man a space where people can come in and the connection as well as accessing PCs for People computers that are available for use on site.
  • Working on improvements in the community center. We had the governor here – and we need for visitors like that to be able to get online.
  • We are increasing availability of telepresence and people are using it – so much easier that traveling and we need more space for folks.
  • IN some communities the senior center can become a tech hub where they have the best connectivity and they allow the general public in.

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