Catching up with broadband projects in Cook MN: classes, hotspot checkout and library programming

There were 15 people in the room this morning in Cook where it seems like building an ark would make as much sense as talking about broadband. They have been part of a project (IRBC) with the Blandin Foundation and IRRRB focused on increasing use of broadband in the area. I’ll include full notes below – but a couple of highlights…

  • The library has a point system for teens that engage in the library (volunteer, check out books…). If you get enough points you get to an overnight at the library – taking advantage of broadband there.
  • The town halls are connected and offer wifi. People take advantage of it.
  • They are looking at classes on broadband as a home security tool.

Some people are connected; some are not. CenturyLink is upgrading access to DSL the area. It’s interesting to be in a room with people who don’t’ have access – that’s all they want to talk about, understandably.

CenturyLink is upgrading to DSL in the area. Lots of questions and comments about access:

  • With 10/1 you can almost run a business – but not if a kid is streaming a video.
  • I run my household broadband off a hotspot. It works but not well. It will be better when I can access DSL and I’m close to the node so speeds should be good.
  • Why during a storm does my DSL not work well? Because the lines are under water.
  • Can I still use my hotspot even when I have DSL? Yes – although you’ll be paying for both.
  • T-Mobile is building out in the area. They don’t have their own towers, they usually use other towers. But they usually often good deals to low income families with students.
  • Working with Blandin was enough to get local engineer support to update broadband access in the area. We got more people interested. Also we submitted a petition from Bois Forte with the PUC.

Project Updates:

Computer Classes – continuing through the Cook Library – only started because of the IRBC program. They did 14 classes. Got a Smart TV. Got 5 laptops. Most popular class was bring your own device. Classes were small so lots of attention. We started a coding for kids program with the laptops. In the end 37 people have come to training.

We have access from the townhall in Orr. It’s free for users and for the city right now. There are a few places around here that offer access.

We’re going to add a home-based security program where people can monitor their homes via broadband.

Hotspot checkout – we’ve had 96 checkouts with 5 hotspots since January. You can check it out for 7 days. You’ can’t renew unless there’s a device on the shelf. The data is unlimited for the library. Lots of people are asking questions. Some home-schooling families have used it. Seniors have used it – they often come back and get their own; so it’s a good test. One hotspot is currently MIA.

Wireless access in Cook Library  – working well. Network reaches 300 feet outside of the building. We could claim Google Places and let people know where wifi is available.

There are no computer classes happening in the high school. No keyboarding. Nothing.

Maybe we can create an incubator space.

Orr Center website – nearly completed. It’s going slower because the Orr Center is getting more involved in the creation of the site, which means they will be able to update and maintain the site.

Quickbooks Training – started through Community Ed. It was a slow start but it’s been going. Nine businesses have signed up and are now using Quickbooks. Word of mouth has been very effective. And there was some personal and focused cold calling.

Promoting businesses through training – worked with some local businesses and moving them toward Facebook advertising. There’s been a learning curve based on what we thought people need and what they really needed.

Classes through Northwoods – 46 classes. People enjoyed them.

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