Update on Redwood County’s Blandin supported Lead Fellowship

Thanks to Redwood County Economic Development Coordinator Briana Mumme for the update on their experience working with a Lead for America Fellow to improve broadband access across the County. It’s amazing to see what can get done in a year and it’s a great list for any county looking to further their broadband plans…

Redwood County EDA contracted for a two-year fellowship with Lead for America; American Connection Corps.  The Fellow was hired to serve as the County Broadband Coordinator effective August 2021 through August 2023.

The Fellow fulfilled the entire project scope within the first year!

The following goals were set and achieved:

  • Develop a broadband needs assessment for the county, which captures quantitative and qualitative data demonstrating the importance of broadband connection for the County;
  • Establish a map outlining the existing fiber connections, provider areas, expansion opportunities, and gaps;
  • Build comprehensive public awareness and excitement among county residents to advocate for broadband investment to the county;
  • Ensure that Redwood County is well positioned to successfully compete for state and federal investment into broadband by the end of the 2-year fellowship.

To fulfill those goals, the following strategies were implemented:

  • Participate in technical assistance programming through the Blandin Community Broadband Resources: Accelerate! Program;
  • Manage all communication regarding broadband with public, providers, county commissioners, EDA Board;
  • Develop and foster relationships with existing internet providers across the county;
  • Connect and establish relationships with businesses in the county to assess their broadband experiences, past/current/future needs;
  • Research other county case studies to learn best practices and common pitfalls for rural broadband development;
  • Identify potential funding opportunities, including the leveraging of existing resources in Minnesota’s Border to Border grants and other state and federal programs;
  • Conduct public educational workshops;
  • Serve as a coordinator and facilitator to community broadband meetings, ensuring comprehensive follow-up to action items and that proposed collaborative opportunities are implemented;
  • Establish key messages and creative opportunities of interest to funders/donors in order to garner expanded support for broadband.

As a result of these activities the following was accomplished:

  • Collaborated and established relationships with elected officials, ISP’s, business leaders, and community members.
  • Completed the Blandin Community Broadband Resources (CBR): Accelerate! Program.
  • Utilized the community members of the CBR team to provide ongoing input and support to the direction of the work.
  • Developed a vision statement, and received endorsements from the CBR group, County EDA Board, and County Commissioners
  • Facilitated monthly meetings with the EDA Broadband sub-committee
  • Hosted multiple meetings with internet service providers to include: Woodstock, Starlink, Arvig, Nuvera, MN Valley Telephone Company, MVTV Wireless
  • Participated in many media platforms to include: MPR, local Radio and Newspaper, Farmside Chat, Land O Lakes, Office of Broadband, and Governor’s Broadband Task Force.
  • Hosted two work sessions with the County Commissioners
  • Developed a webpage dedicated to broadband to provide an overview of what broadband is, why it’s important, current and future projects, and an opportunity for constituents to voice their broadband story. https://redwoodcountyeda.com/broadband/
  • Created Facebook Posts and utilized the County email notification system to communicate the county broadband status, EBB program, encourage engagement – collect pledges and letters of support.
  • Meetings were held with Townships and Cities to describe the value of broadband in their municipality and secure funding.
  • Secured $1.9M in County funds to support a Border-to-Border project to deploy fiber to 8 cities within the County. A total of 52 letters of support and 37 pledges were received to demonstrate community support.
  • There are multiple other broadband projects in development, pending funding programs which align with the project.
This entry was posted in BCBP, Blandin Foundation, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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