The IRRR Ranger reports…
Paul Bunyan Communications in 2015 installed fiber optic lines to bring high speed internet to portions of Itasca County including the townships of Balsam, Lawrence, Nashwauk and the former Iron Range Township.
The project was a collaboration among public partners, community members and the rural cooperative Paul Bunyan. Together they successfully brought broadband to 1,310 locations, including homes and businesses. Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation supported the project with a $1.25 million grant.
“Fast, reliable and affordable broadband access in northeastern Minnesota is an economic necessity, not a luxury,” said Mark Phillips, Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation commissioner. “Our families, workers, businesses, senior citizens, health care systems, students and schools are using it like never before. During the COVID-19 crisis it is enabling learning, working and health care to continue. But there is more work to be done to bring it to every single acre and corner of northeastern Minnesota.”
During the Stay Home statewide order, three Itasca County residents who received broadband connection from the Paul Bunyan project shared their testimony.
Claire Peterlin is the Itasca Area Schools Career Pathways Program Director and is teleworking from her home on Scenic 7. She connects daily with teachers and career pathway professionals through an online chat-ready room to keep the curriculum going for students taking college level and career academy based courses.
“The world of education has totally shifted the last few weeks, but I really believe that we will come out even stronger with more tools in our belts once ‘normal’ resumes,” said Peterlin. “I miss meeting face-to-face with my peers, but none of this would be possible without reliable high-speed internet.”
Vicki Hagberg is the Hibbing Area Chamber of Commerce president. She is teleworking from her home on Buck Lake north of Nashwauk. Her husband is a superintendent in the pipefitting division of CR Meyer and is preparing construction bids from home during the pandemic.
“When we were in the market to buy a home in 2017, broadband connectivity was one of our top considerations. Little did we know then how needed it would be to continue our employment during a global pandemic,” said Hagberg.