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.
Otter Tail County ranks 43 out of 87 counties for digital equity. Otter Tail County is very middle ranking. One surprising tract ranking is subscription rank at 67, that is lower than their other ranking. Their rank for percent of households living beyond poverty is lower (rank 26) so affordability may not be the top reason. It seems like digital training and programs that encourage use would be beneficial. The good news is they have been working on digital equity and have local experts and engagement.
Scroll down for details and suggested resources for more information.
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)
|Otter Tail County||Ranking|
|Access to 100/20||47|
|No HS degree||50|
|Below 150% poverty (last 12 months)||23|
|Below poverty (last 12 months)||26|
|No broadband access||35|
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:
- Battle Lake Public School District (ISD #542)
Superintendent Rob Nudell
- Fergus Falls Public School District (ISD #544)
Superintendent Jeff Drake
(218) 998-0544 x9010
- Henning Public School District (ISD #545)
Superintendent Melissa Sparks
- New York Mills School District (ISD #553)
Superintendent Blaine Novak
- Parkers Prairie School District (ISD #547)
Superintendent Peter Haapala
(218) 338-6011 x151
- Pelican Rapids School District (ISD #548)
Interim Superintendent Brian Korf
- Perham-Dent School District (ISD #549)
Superintendent Mitch Anderson
- Underwood School District (ISD #550)
Superintendent Jeff Wilson
(218) 826-6101 Ext. 104
- Otter Tail County has made broadband a priority; they have a website leading to more information.
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|
|Fergus Falls Chamber of Commerce||Improving Business Resilience Through Technology||Increase the sophistication of use of technology by local businesses by conducting technology audits where the business’s needs related to digital security, email, POS systems, and e-commerce needs are assessed, and training offered.|
|Greater Fergus Falls||Youth Exposure to Tech & Careers||Expand students’ exposure to technology-related careers by holding a virtual career fair and increasing STEAM offerings, including coding and robotics, in kids’ summer programming.|
|Otter Tail County||Smart Rooms||Increase access to and use of technology by equipping at least six indoor public meeting spaces with audiovisual equipment so individuals and groups can attend virtual meetings, distance learning, and job interviews.|
|Viking Library||Free Public Wi-Fi||Increase access to the internet by establishing at least four additional free Wi-Fi public access sites throughout the county.|
|Viking Library||Tech Packs||Improve access to technology for people experiencing economic impacts due to COVID-19 by providing free laptops and mobile hot-spots with 6 months prepaid service along with digital resources for jobseekers to 100 county residents, with emphasis on those seeking employment.|