Assessment of Blandin Community Broadband Program: Aitkin County

Every year, the Blandin Foundation does an assessment of how the Blandin Broadband Communities projects. Here’s the update from Aitkin County…

Aitkin County invested most of its first round of IRBC grant funds on improving broadband access in this very poorly served county. These investments included upgrading satellite internet service to Long Lake Conservation Center, acquiring library mobile hotspots for check out, installing Wi-Fi on buses, and equipping public meeting centers with internet, computers and other technology tools.
The public meeting centers established with round one funding have seen considerable use, so with the second grant round the Aitkin BBC team is investing in additional technology upgrades for those centers, and in the spring of 2020 invested in Zoom accounts and training. They have continued their focus on public access by funding the establishment of a Wi-Fi hotspot at the Jacobson Community Center, the first public hotspot in the town.
The team also has invested in a fiber connection build to Long Lake Conservation Center, finally bringing to the environmental learning center the future proof technology solution it needs to support program delivery across its large and wooded campus. The COVID-19 pandemic increased the importance of this project when LLCC shut down to in person visitors but was able to use the new fiber connection to offer online outreach.
Lastly, the county is working with Riverwood Healthcare Center to increase MyChart usage amongst patients and caregivers to improve patient outcomes and give them a greater feeling of ownership over their health and treatment options.

Thank god for broadband in Aitkin County! Honestly, we’ve really relied on virtual medicine and we’ve served over 900
people in the first few weeks. We’ve been able to serve over 900 people with virtual appointments, and if it wasn’t for
broadband that, obviously, wouldn’t be possible.
– Liz Dean, Riverwood Healthcare System

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