Assessment of Blandin Community Broadband Program: Mt. Iron-Buhl

Every year, the Blandin Foundation does an assessment of how the Blandin Broadband Communities projects. Here’s the update from Mt. Iron-Buhl …

The IRBC group in Mountain Iron-Buhl (MIB) was led by the school district. During the first round, several of the team’s projects were school-based, including instillation of Wi-Fi on buses; procuring equipment for a new journalism class and Makerspace classroom; and bringing technology to outdoor classroom opportunities.
Other projects supported by the MIB BBC team included:
• New web-presence for Great Scott Township
• Upgraded technology at the government buildings in Great Scott and Kinney
• Upgraded Wi-Fi at Mt. Iron City Hall, the Library, and other public spaces around town
• Hosted technology breakfasts and technology training classes, and
• Offered marketing audits for area businesses.
During the second round, the MIB BBC team continued with projects to support the use of enhanced technology in the school forest by acquiring twelve GPS units, geocaching container, a weather station, and a community greenhouse. The school aspires to attract even more users of the forest through enhanced environmental learning, and to open up the STEM Lab and technology offerings to the public. The school has sought and received additional funding that will allow instructors to develop curricula, programming and other opportunities for community members to interact with the technology. Participants will learn about graphic design, CAD, web design, video editing and publishing, and engineering. The school also is establishing a community journalism program and opening its journalism program to community members.
Other community-generated projects that received MIB’s BBC support include:
• An upgrade to the Open Y software program and upgraded technology at the Mesabi
YMCA, including offering Wi-Fi throughout the building
• A new app developed for the City of Mountain Iron to provide information to residents
• Improved Wi-Fi at Mountain Iron Community Center
One self-described “direct” result of the work of the MIB BBC team that required no
funding, but did require leadership, was the decision by the Range Area Municipalities
and Schools (RAMS) to create, host, and manage a website to serve as a central
shared location for all of the documents related to broadband projects on the Iron Range, including feasibility studies, public presentations, fact sheets, and media reports. Fulfilling this information management function is a key component of the civic infrastructure necessary to support collective impact, according to Kania and Kramer of FSK and Harvard’s Kennedy School. Claiming and executing ownership of this project undergirds the enhanced role RAMS has begun to play as an advocate for the broadband needs of its members since joining BCBP.

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