An effort to bring stronger broadband internet service to Austin and the surrounding area is gaining momentum following a meeting Thursday, led by the Blandin Foundation.
Featuring leaders and citizens throughout the area, the effort is working toward the end result of improving internet infrastructure using grant funding from the new Blandin Broadband Community Vision program. Austin is one of six Minnesota communities taking part.
The grant funding maxs out at $100,000, and while not enough to answer every question, it is enough to get the wheels rolling on a process that once in motion can feed itself and help grow the community and answer a common question.
“Expanding access to technology, whether it’s the internet connectivity, whether it’s the devices, whether it’s digital literacy,” said Jayne Gibson, executive director of Austin Aspires, to the over 40 people taking part over Zoom Thursday. “It’s not a new conversation in our community.”
The meeting took participants through key areas important in reaching this goal, and included city leaders speaking directly to some of the smaller goals as well as many of the challenges.
The time was followed by breakout sessions where people looked at current resources, challenges and opportunities.
Increasing broadband access to the area has been a goal for a number of years, dating back to the 10-year period of Vision 2020. But it’s also been at the core of funding challenges.