The Farmer writes about the role of Land O’Lakes in improving rural broadband. I’ve written about this program in the past, but always good to see word spread…
While federal and state broadband investments surge and fade, there is one supporter is carrying the banner for rural interconnectivity.
Leadership at the farmer-owned co-op Land O’Lakes has voiced concern about the digital divide for several years. More than a year ago, it started the American Connection Project (ACP), which encompasses a three-point mission: lobbying for interconnectivity, providing free Wi-Fi in rural areas and training young adults to help rural communities navigate broadband implementation and stimulate economic development.
“We started working on ACP prior to Covid,” says Tina May, Land O’Lakes vice president of rural services. “We’ve been working on it for over two years. The reason? It’s about access in rural communities. Covid showed us it is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity in every community, every house and every farm.”
They get into some of the details.
The bigger picture with rural broadband access for all encompasses economic development and revitalization of rural communities. That’s where ACP’s American Connection Corps comes into play. The American Connection Corps, funded by 20 organizations, is providing two-year fellowships for 53 young professionals in 12 states, including Minnesota, to work on coordinating local, state and federal resources for broadband access. The fellows also will focus on expanding digital literacy and connecting young people within their community to spur business and nonprofit activity.
“The pandemic showed us that if there is broadband available, you can do your job anywhere,” May says. ACC will announce in late July who the new fellows are and where they will be located. Six will be assigned in Minnesota.
“The fellows will get robust training, as the scope of their work will be difficult,” she adds. “I’m excited to see what they can do.”