Catching up with broadband projects in Chisholm MN: Hotspots everywhere, connected Discovery Center, portal, and hopes for the schools

Back on the road, today we’re in Chisholm talking with people about their broadband projects.  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…

Around Chisholm, kids can spend hours on the bus. Hotspots on the buses have been a treat for the students and maybe even more so for the drivers. They recently unveiled an area portal that features a shared calendar and social media feeds from various partners. They upgraded connectivity st the Discovery Center. And it was fun to hear about big plans for remote classes in the school. 

Hotspots on the school buses

  • 20+ gig of data used per month on each buses
  • Kids like it – especially when traveling for sports
  • Drivers love it
  • They have 6 buses and are working
  • Built in filtering – porn, social media sites to help focus on school work and research
  • Single point hardware with AT&T – they have best coverage around here
  • Plan to use school content monitor next year, which should be more effective that straight filter

MN Discovery Center

  • Added 2 access points – wiring is there for more just in case
  • 2 access points to outside
  • Other access points in locations throughout the building
  • Have dedicated pt-to-pt wireless solution
  • Switched to new provider (from wireless transmission via water tower – weather-dependent) now we have fiber through CTC/NESC. It increased speed and reliability.
  • Looking at more access points to food court for new POS – otherwise we’re pretty covered
  • Budget was $40,000ish

Community Hotspots

  • Done in Balkan
  • Used at events – people like it
  • Home connectivity in the area is not high

Library Hotspot

  • People can use it now!
  • 4 access points
  • People use it even when
  • 3149 connections made last month
  • Use CTC via NESC

Chisholm Pocket Park Hotspot

  • We see people use it
  • Area apartments enjoy access too

HRGA Housing Complex

  • Wanted to add hotspots
  • Owner is wary of data hogs and inequity of access for renters
  • If this doesn’t work, they’ll try another area

PCs for People

  • Distributed through places like food shelf, schools, senior centers, Hibbing Community College

Community education classes

  • Wanted high school students to teach folks as part of a class
  • Website development
  • Social media

Community Portal

  • Shared community calendar
  • Features partner social media feeds
  • Pretty easy to maintain – based on RSS feeds from other community sites
  • Went live yesterday

Technology Center

  • Picked a building, had a contractor, had 3 tenants,
  • Having trouble with the developer – not returning calls et al
  • Project may not continue
  • Were thinking about a shared space to work, board room with more technology,
  • Might work with UMD CRDC


  • Pilot school for new technology on the Range – want Chromebook for grade 4-12
  • Want to bring kids into school remotely
    • We have 30-40 kids who are doing online classes now
    • Uptick in kids with anxiety – get them in digitally would help
  • Offering coding classes to younger grades
  • Mesabi is working on remote STEM program
  • A bridge to homeschoolers
  • The plan is to pilot and learn

Feasibility study

  • Consultant is ready to unroll info to the communities
  • Draft info is available
  • There will be meetings in each meeting
  • Providers are willing to look at unserved areas with 20 percent support in the area
  • Areas with greatest will are the ones who will get broadband first

Something you feel good about as result of your work here

  • Wifi on the buses means kids don’t waste time
  • Get to know people in the community – since I’m new to the school
  • The personal connections we’ve all made
  • PCs for People made everyone feel good
  • Usually with economic development it feels like pushing a rock up a hill – but with broadband I’m seeing the impact
  • Nice to be first librarian in the area to offer hotspots
  • Happy to be able to a connected community space in the Discovery Center
  • Knowing that the people who participate can get stuff done – efficacious!
  • Great to see the process from start to finish
  • Fun to see how much people learn

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About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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