How can broadband help you prepare for coronavirus or other disasters?

According to MPR  News, Minnesota Department of Health has been reaching out to schools and businesses to make sure they have plans in place in case of coronavirus-related closures or special precautions. I can’t help but think that communities with broadband are in a better position than those without.

As the MPR article, points out, Minnesota is in a better position than some states because we have plans for snow days, which is a good start but is that enough. Below are some ways that broadband can help. Read through and maybe plan a meeting with your people to brainstorm how technology could help you and what you need to do now to make it possible.

Work or study from home if you’re sick

Stay at home if you’re sick is one of the top three recommendations to prevent spread of illness (along with cover your cough and wash your hands). Places that have curriculum or work online will make it easier for people to stay at home without losing ground. Now is a good time for teachers and schools to find a way to make assignments and classwork available online. It might be as simple as livestreaming classes and making better use of the school portals.

Work can be different. Some jobs lend themselves to work from home (like writing a blog); some do not (working a production line). For businesses that don’t lend themselves to obvious remote work, management might want to think of any remote work that might benefit the business. Can employees work on documentation, support customers by phone or even remotely monitor and manage work? An option that allows employees to stay at home without losing revenue makes it easier to decide to stay home.

In case of closures

Schools may be able to build upon their snow day plans if they are required to close – again with online classwork and homework. If closures are extended, schools may want to work with students to find ways to continue learning. Students (certainly beyond age 10) will have found a way to hang out online – group chats, chatrooms, facetime – they will find a way. Teachers and schools may tap into how those tools can be used to recreate a virtual classroom. Now might be a good time to look into options – at least ask students what they use to hang out on their own and check those resources out.

Again businesses are different but it makes sense for owners and managers to consider now what if anything can be done remotely if they need to close. Is there a office intranet? Can it be accessed off site? Now would be a good time to make that possible. Do you provide services? If so, making sure that key employees can interact with clients remotely via video chat or other online tool. Have a yoga studio? Maybe you can livestream classes into members’ home homes, keeping you and them our of harm’s way. Who knows it may lead to innovation you can use regardless of what happens?

Another thing to consider is that while we may stay open in Minnesota, closures in other parts of the world may make work difficult or impossible. If that’s becomes the case, are there good house keeping tasks that can be planned. Is now the time to deploy LEAN procedures, research your competitors or make customer care phone calls to check in with folks who might be in the same boat and happy to give you feedback on your service?

For families

Yesterday my daughter suggested we buy actual ingredients (as opposed to prepared food), just in case and of course she’s right. But in terms of broadband, it can be used to keep in communication with loved one and make sure everyone it OK. So now is the time to make sure that your loved ones are connected, have a device and know how to use it. A great weekend activity might be visiting grandma and letting her soon-to-be favorite grandkid get her set up with one-click access to Facebook video messenger, email, Instagram or any other tool that the whole family can tap into. It will make checking in easier and minimize loneliness if public spaces start closing.

Of course, as with any of the suggestions I’ve made, broadband is required. In unserved areas that may mean tapping into cellular networks and getting a smartphone or tablet. Or here is where satellite might come into its own. It has its limitations, but it is available everywhere. So if you or a loved one have no other option, now is the time to consider what could work.

This entry was posted in economic development, Healthcare 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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