The Blandin Foundation recently published an inclusive assessment of the last cohort of Blandin Broadband Communities. Including a segment on Cannon Falls…
Recognizing the need to adapt, evolve and take advantage of opportunities to modernize and grow, Cannon Falls Economic Development authority (EDA) applied to the BBC program and chose the school district as its physical boundary. The city is located just over thirty miles south of Minneapolis/St. Paul, making it a desirable place to visit, conduct business and reside.
One of the team’s objectives was to address the problem that not all families in the school district have access to the same level of broadband service: the city of Cannon Falls is served by a fiber-to-the-home network, while those in more rural parts of the district struggle with poor service. BBC Steering Team members are using broadband surveys to talk with local internet providers about the need to improve internet access.
The BBC team also has successfully distributed fifty refurbished computers from PCs for People to income-qualifying families with school-age children and nonprofits in need in the area.
Recognizing that everyone in the community would benefit from an increased level of digital literacy and sophistication of internet use, the project has included community education and training classes, such as in digital marketing.
Working in partnership with many organizations across the community the EDA has built a local foods infrastructure that includes a farmer’s market, restaurants, meat processing, event space, and more. Cannon Falls used the Blandin Broadband Community program as an opportunity to build on and amplify this success by creating and implementing a 21st century marketing and promotion plan for the initiative and brand.
Another focus for the community is senior engagement. The BBC group helped purchase Virtual Reality (VR) headsets and software subscriptions for two senior care centers in the area, enabling residents to take virtual field trips around the world. VR systems are being used for wellness, stress reduction, and for the calming effect that guided imagery and ambient sound can have on improving quality of life. There is growing research to show virtual reality helps the elderly cope with depression and anxiety.
Other projects funded for implementation in the Cannon Falls area include a (digital) relaunch of the elementary school newspaper and a new co-working center downtown.