Blandin Foundation is seeking communities/counties to participate in their Community Broadband Resources: Accelerate! program beginning in September. Blandin decided to launch a 2nd cohort of communities due to the enthusiastic response from our first cohort that completed the program in June. We hope to have a group of 3 – 5 communities participating as a cohort and would like to start in late September as soon as we have our community cohort on board.
In essence, we ask that each community form a steering team with at least 8 people. In our first cohort, teams ranged from 8 – 16 members that committed to participating in weekly meetings, each Friday morning from 9 – 11 am. We do not keep attendance and ask only that people make a good faith commitment.
Each week has a theme. From 9-10, all of the communities meet together to: 1) learn from experts; 2) hear from Blandin members; 3) learn from each other. The second hour is devoted to each community’s steering team meeting where the teams plan their upcoming work. We also ask that members watch an archived video webinar some time during the week on that week’s topic.
Through the process, each community will conduct a community survey using a standardized survey. MN Extension will assist on data reporting. In our last cohort, communities combined online and paper surveys. Local communities are responsible for doing any data entry with the paper surveys and for any mailing or publicity costs. In the first cohort, we used the statewide speed test web site to gather that data. I am uncertain as to the availability of that site for our purposes.
Provider interviews are also a part of the process. Several community-friendly providers participated on community teams in the first cohort.
We spend quite a bit of time on mapping, public private partnerships, public finance, etc.
The last two weeks of the program are devoted to the creation of a community broadband plan where Blandin staff works with each community to finalize their plan and a presentation that they can bring back to local elected officials, community groups and members, and broadband providers.
The application process is quite easy and informal. The list of steering team members is the key element.
If you would like to know more, contact Bill Coleman at 651-491-2551 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He would be happy to do a quick webinar to ensure there is clear understanding of the process.