Every year, the Blandin on Broadband blog does County Broadband Profiles (and will do again when the new maps come out) but given federal opportunities are making it possible to get funding for access and adoption, I thought I’d try to present information for counties to assess their digital equity standing (see table below) and give options for who to contact locally for more information.
Benton County ranks 30 out of 87 counties for digital equity; that’s top third of the class. It’s interesting to see from the table below where Benton does well and where help might be needed. The subscription ranking in 19, which is quite good. That indicates that folks see the value and can afford it or that subsidy programs are being used. Benton ranks lower in access to broadband at speeds of 100 Mbps down and 20 up. So there is still work to do to get better broadband. Also the ranking for high school graduations is low, which might be an opportunity to combine digital equity training with programs that also work on high school degrees or GEDs. Use broadband as a solution worth investment.
Blandin Foundation is using the Microsoft Digital Equity Tool to determine needs by county and make high level recommendations for next steps to consider based on the data. (With special thanks to Carter Grupp, Broadband Coordinator Broadband Coordinator at American Connection Project for Otter Tail County.) Visit the tool if you want to look up more statistics on your community.
Demographic Data and Ranking (out of 87)
|Access to 100/20||53|
|No HS degree||51|
|Below 150% poverty (last 12 months)||36|
|Below poverty (last 12 months)||32|
|No broadband access||51|
The map below shows digital inequity by census tract. The bluer the better; yellow and orange colors indicate more inequity. This map can be helpful in figuring out which parts of your county need the most help.
So where do you go to talk to people in the county about digit equity plans? Good places to start include:
- Foley Public School District (ISD #51)
Superintendent Paul Neubauer
- Sauk Rapids School District (ISD #47) Superintendent Bradley Bergstrom
There’s a lot to take in but sometimes it’s also helpful to see what a community has done in the past, so we’ve gathered specific projects funded through the Blandin Foundation:
|Project Owner||Project Name||Description|
|Benton County||“Knowledge Community” website||A new website will market training opportunities, market Benton County as a “Knowledge Community”, and post information regarding broadband access in the County.|
|City of Foley||Foley Interactive Website/Library Access to Computers||The new City of Foley website will encourage broadband usage by providing an efficient way to conduct city business. This new website, and services including online payments, auto pay, information about the utilities available, ordinances and notices, will benefit over 2,600 Foley residents and other area community members.|
|Country Manor Campus||Enriching Lives||Enriching Lives will broaden the opportunities seniors have to communicate with family and friends, and explore new horizons available via web-based education, entertainment and daily life enrichment.|
|Foley and Sauk Rapids-Rice High School||Questia||Questia is considered the world’s largest online library. It will provide student logins, encouraging them to use the Internet for research, note-taking and writing purposes.|
|Foley Community Education||Foley- Intelligent Rural Community at Home, Work and School||Foley Community Education will increase computer lab time and provide classes for students, businesses and community members to enhance their use of high-speed Internet, telecommuting opportunities and online research tools. Class offerings will range from what to look for when purchasing a computer and basic operating system skills, to classes on creating a resume.|
|Foley High School FFA||Growing our Youth Through Connecting with Ag Community||Create a website for the school’s Future Farmers of American (FFA) organization to have students interact with the local agricultural community and to develop a first year well water testing project with the rural community through the website.|
|Foley Public Schools||Wireless Access Routers||Purchase and install wireless access routers within Foley Public Schools to be used by students, staff, ABE participants, Community Ed participants and other community residents as well as guests of the community.|
|Independent Lifestyles, Inc.||Project BRAVE||Project BRAVE (Broadband, Resources And Vocational Exploration) will provide curriculum, utilization and training for computer and Internet access. Classes will be designed for individuals and school-age youth with disabilities who are seeking to learn computer and Internet skills to increase their independence in daily living and gain successful employment. Furthermore, community members as a whole will have the opportunity for education through Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and one-on-one training options for VRS/DEED credentialing.|
|LA Home Care||Smart Home Technologies for the Elderly||Smart Home Technologies will allow aging members of the community to live longer at home with greater security and less social isolation.|
|Maywood Group / New Frontier Services||Business Website Assistance Program||This program will offer an additional service that eliminates the constraints and gets small and new businesses started with a website and company email address through the “DoIt4Website” process.|
|MIRC Steering Committee||Marketing||To market the MIRC programs through Economic Development with a new logo, poster campaign for WiFi sites and with WiFi window clings. Equipment was purchased to market over the Internet. Staff will also post “Community Assets” on Google Maps.|
|MIRC Steering Committee||Routers||Create more “Hot Spots” throughout the county by assisting businesses and public places provide wireless Internet.|
|MIRC Steering Committee||Business Events||Host a number of events to promote MIRC activities with the theme, “change or become obsolete.”|
|New Frontier Services||What’s Up in Foley Website||The new “What’s up in Foley” community website will increase exposure to community events, information and opportunities. In addition, the website will be used as a platform for other projects, specifically non-profit organizations, to communicate information at no charge, such as directory listings, program details, website links, events listing and more.|
|Sauk Rapids-Rice Community Education||Sauk Rapids-Rice Prepares for 2020||Sauk Rapids-Rice Community Education will increase computer lab time for students and community members resulting in increased use of high-speed Internet and improve technology skills. Parents will be trained on how to use the School District’s website.|