Catching up with broadband projects in Mountain Iron/Buhl MN: Cool forest education program, new school equipment and feasibility study

Today we’re in Mountain Iron 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. It was especially fun to hear about a cool project in the school, They have a school forest. Through this program, high school students set up cameras and learned how to develop some programming for younger kids (5th grade) to learn more about forestry. They had some other fun things too – you can read more and see the video below.

Community Website in Great Scott Township – satellite only, that’s slow and unreliable, especially with weather. The site looks nice. We post events, meeting minutes. A community member designed the site.

Because broadband is limited – esp in Kinney, we wanted to make access at city hall easier for folks. Worked with Mediacom to get set up. Also set up three public computers. Getting a projector and movie screen. We have students set up to help man the area and help patrons to make the computers and broadband available. There is no cell coverage in Kinney.

Forest project – working with the school forest coordinator. They have a 50 acre school forest. It was donated for educational purposes. To make it more accessible – we added some trail cameras, GPS units and training for staff. The high school students learned how to set everything up and work with it at the Laurentian Center. Then after the high school students set up everything and then the fifth graders tested it out. Thinking of fun projects like kids adopt a tree and follow it through the years.

Tech Equipment in the New School – they’re working on a new school. Some funding has gone into – MakerSpace, journalism classroom (got a green screen, better mics and more).

Feasibility study – now have one-pagers for each community – what is possible, what is accessible now and what are the demographics of the area. USDA grants are out there for 10/1 communities – so we’re looking at which of our communities might qualify for those grants. Hoping those funds will be available in January (2019). This is an opportunity to get FTTH if we can get federal funds and local funds. Part of the Iron Range are really stuck and with Lake Connections nearby our neighbors are well served. It is no longer OK to say that satellite is enough for us! We can plan to be there at the MN Legislature next year.

Business Technology training – mastering social media (Art Unlimited). The biggest problem was getting enough bandwidth for the class materials. Those classes will be done in November. We had more than 20 people in the first class.

Tech audits and business visits. That is mid- process. One of the first businesses is local child care.

RAMS – we worked on a Dig Once resolution. She passed it and shared with community groups. We have a dozen communities to sign on. And we’ve even taken it to St Louis County.

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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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