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.
Pennington County ranks 35 out of 87 counties for digital equity. They are in the top half of the ranking, which is good. Their ranking for broadband subscription rates (28) and computer ownership (26) are pretty good. The ranking (49) for broadband access at speeds of 100 Mbps down and 20 up is not as strong. They’ll want to keep an eye on infrastructure but they are still in a position where they need to work on the three pillars of digital equity: affordable access to broadband, device ownership and the skills to use them. The good news is that they have been working on digital equity projects, which means they should have local expertise and community 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)
|Access to 100/20||49|
|No HS degree||41|
|Below 150% poverty (last 12 months)||33|
|Below poverty (last 12 months)||42|
|No broadband access||33|
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:
- Goodridge School District (ISD #561)
Superintendent Tomas Loberg
- Thief River Falls School District (ISD #564)
Superintendent Dr. Paula Henry
Regional Development Commission
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|
|Inter-County Community Council||Computers for Our Community||Computers for Our Community’ will use workforce programs to connect area youth to technology initiatives including computer refurbishment and computer/Internet training.|
|Northland Community College||Technology Fairs||The Thief River Technology Expo will gather a variety of private sector technology vendors for multiple demonstrations and classes on broadband technology and its applications.|
|Thief River Falls Chamber of Commerce||Technology Connection Center||The Thief River Falls Technology Connection Center will be a space where businesses and the general public can easily have access to high-speed Internet, computers and training classes.|