Paul Bunyan’s broadband is making life easier during coronavirus on the Iron Range (Itasca County)

Hometown Focus posts stories from folks on the Iron Range who have broadband from Paul Bunyan and are better armed for the pandemic because of it…

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.

Aaron Brown is an instructor of communication at Hibbing Community College, while also working as an author, radio producer and Iron Range news blogger. He and his wife have three sons, and the entire family is working and learning from their Itasca County home during the COVID 19 crisis. Aaron conducts video conferences from his home for his students, so they can complete his course and graduate on time. Meantime, he is collaborating with a partner in New York on a new podcast project. Earlier this week he published an article on the new urgency for rural broadband.

“Access to high-speed internet in rural northeastern Minnesota is equivalent to other basic services such as postal delivery, electricity and telephones,” said Whitney Ridlon, Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation community representative. “Mail, electrical and telephone service at one point in history were considered luxuries and available only in larger cities. Eventually our nation considered these basic public utilities and made them available in rural areas across America: mail delivery in the early 1900s, electricity in the 1930s and telephone service in the 1950s. We are at that same point with broadband.”

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