Blandin Broadband Awards Presentation Pt 2 #MNBroadband Conference

Congrats and thank you to the many who have helped make Minnesota stronger with broadband!

Cook County and Arrowhead Electric Cooperative

This Courageous Leadership Award is presented to Cook County and Arrowhead Electric Cooperative in recognition of their visionary early work on community access to dial-up Internet which led years later to their innovative partnership that enabled deployment of over 800 miles of fiber-to-the-home network stretching from Lake Superior to the end of the Gunflint Trail and the Canadian border.

  • In 2010, the United States Department of Agriculture awarded Arrowhead Electric over $16 million in grants and low interest loans to build a fiber-to-the-home broadband network throughout Cook County. This USDA funding was provided through the Broadband Initiatives Program of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
  • Cook County awarded Arrowhead Electric Cooperative a $4 million grant from its 1% local economic development sales tax fund to build a fiber optic network in Grand Marais.
  • As an early and consistent Blandin Foundation partner in the Get Broadband and the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Community programs, Cook County implemented sophisticated and innovative broadband adoption initiatives, including increasing the capacity of local community-owned ISP Boreal Access, creating a public-access distance education hub, tele-health applications, and streaming local sports on local public TV.

Gary Evans

This Courageous Leadership Award is presented to Gary Evans for his pioneering work to put community vision and benefit at the center of rural broadband deployment efforts and his strategic and supportive contributions to the Blandin Broadband Strategy Board and the Governor’s Broadband Task Force.

  • President and CEO of Hiawatha Broadband Communications from 1998-2013.
  • Helped launch Luminet, a nonprofit group established by Hiawatha Education Foundation, to manage a public internet network connecting schools. In 1997, Luminet transformed into HBC so as to bring broadband to the greater Winona community.
  • Taught communities that broadband is a tool to achieve the community’s future vision rather than an end in itself. HBC only expanded into communities where leaders understood this paradigm.
  • Inducted into the Winona County Fair “Hall of Fame” for his decades of community service in 2017.

Nancy Hoffman

This Courageous Leadership Award is presented to Nancy Hoffman for her consistent and positive work in promoting broadband access and use as a Blandin partner in Benton and Chisago Counties and for her generous leadership of the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition working to ensure broadband access for all Minnesotans.

  • Executive Director at Chisago County HRA-EDA since 2012.
  • Led the Broadband Team in the Chisago Lakes Area’s efforts in the America’s Best Communities program, contributing to their finalist status in the nationwide competition.
  • Key facilitator of successful Chisago County township broadband projects by providing critical logistical and financial support.
  • Founding chair of the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition.

PCs for People

This Courageous Leadership Award is presented to PCs for People for becoming a national leader in digital inclusion efforts, both by growing its own effort and by supporting like-minded non-profits around the country, ensuring that tens of thousands of low-income families and individuals have the computers and Internet access they need to fully participate in society.

  • Founded in 1998, PCs for People is a recognized national leader in digital inclusion.
  • PCs for People has distributed more than 80,000 computers, subscribed thousands of families to low-cost internet, and recycled millions of pounds of electronics, transforming itself from a small Minnesota non-profit into a national force for good.
  • PCs for People model contributes to environmental sustainability by intercepting usable computers before they reach landfills and refurbishing them for reuse.
  • CEO Casey Sorensen recently received the Charles Benton Foundation Digital Equity Champion award for 2019 for the work of PCs for People.

Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services

This Courageous Leadership Award is presented to the governing board of Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services for their vision and multi-community collaboration in creating a public regional fiber network that serves residential and business customers in eight rural communities ranging from 59 to just over 3,200 people.

  • In 2011, the communities of Jackson, Brewster, Bingham Lake, Heron Lake, Lakefield, Wilder, Okabena, and Round Lake began exploring a broadband solution.
  • Community leaders were prepared for and successful in getting a $12.8 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to build a world-class fiber-to-the-home service.
  • The Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services network passes 3,500 residences, 292 businesses and 50 anchor institutions.

In addition to providing the region with access to fast, reliable, and affordable broadband, the network has helped local governments be more efficient. Telephone calls from one town to another are now toll free rather than long distance.

This entry was posted in Blandin Broadband Summit 2019 by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

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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