Now, with the help of the Blandin Foundation Accelerate program – a 15-week program that helps both educate the community and develop the best solutions – the county could potentially be making some strides forward.
Over the 15 weeks of the Accelerate program, communities work together to discuss broadband development options, gather information from the communities on need and demand, analyze the data and then determine what the next steps should be moving forward.
The article looks at broadband in the last few years…
Among the progress made in Aitkin County through the 2017-20 Iron Range Broadband Community:
- A Wi-Fi hotspot in Jacobson Community Center
- High-speed broadband at Long Lake Conservation Center
- Increase MyChart usage at Riverwood Healthcare Center
- Community conference centers with computer lab, smart boards, digital equipment and community education
- Wi-Fi networks for Palisade
- Wi-Fi at Berglund Park in Palisade
- Mobile Wi-Fi hotspots at East Central Regional Library
However, while the cities are addressed, much of the population of the county lives in the more rural areas.
The Blandin project will meet the community where they are…
That’s where the Blandin project comes in. Jeffers, along with city and county leaders, is working on education first and foremost. He is to educate themselves and the public about not only what is available but also what meets the 100M/20M goal for the state of Minnesota.
“That’s part of the issue,” Jeffers explained. “It depends on which provider you’re with. It depends on whether it’s broadband high speed, or if it’s cable DSL.
“There’s a lot of variations in that,” he added.
Bernadine Joselyn, director of public policy and engagement at Blandin, said that many providers are trying to sell what they have – which may or may not be what the county needs.
“Most of the people in the space are trying to sell something,” Joselyn explained. “It’s challenging for local officials to find their way forward.”
The Blandin Foundation remains involved in order to address the need, as it has through facilitating its Cyber Partners program – teaching people how to use and participate through high-speed internet – and the Accelerate program.
“We’ve been working in broadband for almost 20 years,” Joselyn said. “Without out access to broadband and the skills to use it, there’s no future in rural communities. It’s absolutely critical.”