Arron Brown has spoken eloquently on the need for broadband on the Iron Range. He spoke at at the Fall Broadband conference last year – and I remember his joyous column when he got real broadband a few years ago. Over the weekend he had an article in the Hibbing Daily Tirbune on the promise of broadband in a rural community…
These are the promises of America, of life on the Mesabi Iron Range. The idea is that all kids get a shot, no matter how well their parents are doing. Creativity and entrepreneurship can lead us out of the dark times.
The world keeps changing but this never should. And in 2018, that means that rural kids need access to high-speed broadband internet access. So do small businesses. So does everyone.
A new initiative called Iron Range Communities Broadband now takes shape in rural areas around Hibbing, Chisholm, Cherry, Buhl and Mountain Iron. Locations that currently have no broadband internet access, or extremely slow access, may soon be hooked up to high speed service.
The need for it…
“New ventures are what is needed,” reads the background of a new report by Neo Connect for the project. “In addition to strengthening local communities with increased revenues, new businesses diversify the economy, hardening it against future downturns and ensuring sustainable long-term job creation.”
Rural residents who work full time are more likely to live in poverty than those who live in town, according to the same report. In fact, there aren’t many problems on the Iron Range — from population loss to declining
And how it can work on the Iron Range…
I’ve written before about how rural sections of central Itasca County petitioned for internet access. The county, business partners, townships and school boards banded together. The key was in showing private internet providers that a reliable customer base existed in these rural areas.
Now that same process could work for rural residents of the Hibbing, Chisholm and Mountain Iron-Buhl school districts, and Cherry Township. That means that places like Side Lake, Balkan Township, Great Scott, and vast rural areas outside Hibbing could finally see high speed internet.
And how residents can get involved…
The Iron Range Communities Broadband project is a multi-step process with many partners involved. Eventually, cities, school and township boards will need to take action. Grants and other funding sources will be won. But the most important people are citizens who would benefit from access to the new service. And if that describes you, there’s something you can do now.
Several meetings will be held where residents can support expansion of broadband service to their homes:
- 5 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 25 at Chisholm City Hall
- 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 26 at the Hibbing Economic Development Authority meeting at Hibbing City Hall
- 6 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 27 at the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools office in Mt. Iron
- 6 p.m., Monday, Oct. 1 at Great Scott Town Hall
- 5 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 2 at Mt. Iron Economic Development Authority at Mt. Iron City Hall
- 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 2 at Side Lake Community Center in French Township
- 4 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 3 at Hibbing School Board chambers at Hibbing High School
- 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 3 at Cherry Township Hall
Attending meetings like this makes a huge difference in convincing public officials that the investment of time and resources is worthwhile. I can distinctly recall how a packed Balsam Township meeting made it clear to local officials there was no turning back.