Koochiching Tech Initiative Struts their broadband projects: cool new coworking space and more

Yesterday we met with the Koochiching Tech Initiative folks in International Fall about their broadband projects. We started with a tour of the emerging coworking space. It’s the old furniture store and the owner is transitioning it into a working space. They have space for daily visitors and more permanent rentals. The space is really nice. You can see a quick video of the space:

Getting Better Broadband

Working on a Mn Broadband grant. Getting letters of support from various people. Hoping to work with Paul Bunyan. They are working with the plan that started last year at the Broadband Conference. If the grant gets funded (as we originally planned) it would have met the need of about 50 percent of the households in our community; but with the lake area removed, we’re probably down to 35 percent.

They will also share data from recent market surveys with other providers to see if we can’t entice other providers to reach areas that don’t make sense for Paul Bunyan. If they need to, they will look at fixed wireless. They are looking at fixed wireless across the lake, because of the inherent cost of running fiber. Average cost to get FTTH in the area is $6500 per home. It would be much more across the lake.

The survey was successful. The folks here had some very optimistic expectations – but the good news is that Paul Bunyan is more realistic and were happy with the results.

A next phase might be looking into wireless options.

Marketing the Area

The biggest frustration has been the community video project, which didn’t really gel with what we needed. They are looking at other approaches for a web portal and maybe branding. Trying to move away from Icebox of the Nation.

They’re looking at a request from a group that will call back to people who have been here before. They have found that often people come for a job and just loved it. And for folks who are close to retiring, the cost of a house has been a draw.

Smokey Bear wifi

They are putting public wifi in the Smokey Bear park. It got done in time for a big event and it met the needs of the event. SO that was a success. The connection comes from the library (via MidCo).

They have put wifi into a space for temporary housing. That will be built soon.

Library

The library has provided access to Linda training. (Which has actually been renamed.) They have a wide range of services that are now accessible and we are working on better marketing the services that are available. They have created a recording studio for podcasts or musicians. (They got funding from a different source.)  That just opened the other day and already a podcast has broadcast!

They are digitizing the collection. (Not funded through broadband.)

KCTV lends out cameras

They will get equipment so that they can do “i-reports” for citizen journalism. Folks just need to take the class and then they can use the camera and broadcast. One example, the FACS teacher will be using it. They are also looking at livestreaming sporting events – especially hockey.

They post everything on YouTube, which people do watch later – from local cultural events to public policy meetings.

PCs for People

The 50 computers are slated to be distributed and a date has been set.

Issues

One of the issues has been getting volunteers to do everything. They are looking at options to hire someone. There’s just too much work to expect someone to be able to do it for free. One approach might be to use grant funding to pay for project management or support by project. The only concern would be sustainability. They have had support from the city in terms of promoting and sharing info but they don’t fund a lot.

Our survivor isn’t a large company swooping in to save us – it’s local entrepreneurship!

There is money left for a second round of funding.

This entry was posted in Conferences, IRBC, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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