Welcoming the latest cohort of Blandin Broadband Communities – a peek at how the sausage is made

Last week the Blandin Broadband Team met up with the newest BBC cohort – Swift County, Cannon Falls and Rock County. I don’t always share notes from these meetings – but the crowd was just the right size for capturing parts of the day and sharing a little bit about what it’s like to be part of the BBC.

Communities apply to the BBC program. Once in, they commit to work on broadband adoption for 18 months. Broadband coach (and economic developer) Bill Coleman walks them through visioning sessions, choosing priorities, building partnerships. They create a plan for the future and then are invited to submit proposals to the Blandin Foundation. As a BBC community, they will generally get $75,000 for these projects. What I think it awesome is that they get a ton done with many relatively small grants.

Last week we got started. Each member of the cohort talked about what success would look like to them…

Then they got a presentation from Bill (and me – on digital inclusion) …

The also heard from Bernadine Joselyn on the high level hopes and Mary Magnuson on the nitty gritty of expectations. We were also joined by Sam Drong of PCs for People. Each community gets 50 refurbished computers to distribute to the community. Some heartwarming stories come from those computer distribution parties!

Here’s a little clip of some of the group work Each community worked to consider their strengths and weakness in terms of the Intelligent Community Framework.

So now they are off. Next step – a series of meetings with Bill and the planning begins.

Ely business broadband survey – selling is top benefit now

Recently we heard from Ely about their participation in the IRBC program. Incredible Ely mentioned their business broadband survey. Incredible Ely works with local entrepreneurs – and as they work they will be tracking progress with future survey. Pam was kind enough to share the results – with a generous offer to talk with anyone about their program (pam@incredibleely.org).

I’m excited to share the results today. This is a baseline survey. They spoke with 60 local businesses and asked them basic questions about their business and broadband use. It’s interesting to see how local businesses are currently using the internet.

As you can see – top “most important use” is selling.

They also asked what businesses could do differently with quality internet. Here’s an abridged list (I removed suggestions that were similar):

  • Could research things faster
  • Develop an online retail presence
  • Greater internet efficiency = greater profits
  • Internet would be faster at work and at home
  • Develop website – advertise store products
  • It would give us the ability to increase online applications and fishing/camping trips
  • It will benefit our business if our individual clients have broadband. This will increase their ability to contact us because their outages will be decreased and they will have greater bandwidth to enable them to utilize some of our company’s services
  • Selling online retail (both in and outside the Ely area), now only sell wholesale
  • Could increase business by being able to get back to customers on a timely basis – Frontier goes down
  • Paying for only one internet service would be nice, now we have two services in case one goes down
  • We would have reliable music through the internet for customers
  • Not known at this point, too new
  • It would help with access to ATM
  • If we had better internet we would look at our marketing differently, internet speed impacts how we market
  • Internet reliability is important. If the internet is down we can’t check-in guests


Catching up with broadband projects in Hibbing MN: digital marketing, connectivity through the libraries and community center

Spent the morning in HIbbing talking with people about their broadband projects.  They have been part of a project (IRBC) with the Blandin Foundation and IRRRB focused on increasing use of broadband in the area. I’ll include full notes below – but a couple of highlights…

  • Working on fiber to community building
  • Digital marketing consulting with local businesses
  • Connectivity through the libraries
  • Tech fair for kids
  • PCS for people

Continue reading

Catching up with broadband projects in Ely MN: Feasibility study, digital marketing, coworking and Elyite website

Spent yesterday afternoon in Ely talking with people about their broadband projects. (It is actually cool up  here – so very nice!) They have been part of a project (IRBC) with the Blandin Foundation and IRRRB focused on increasing use of broadband in the area. I’ll include full notes below – but a couple of highlights…

  • The have made a big push with digital marketing – classes and consulting
  • Their feasibility study has raised some opportunities and options for partnership
  • They have a new website to recruit new Elyites – filled with fun videos.
  • They have a new coworking space – open only a month and they have 12 members!

Continue reading

Catching up with broadband projects in Cook MN: classes, hotspot checkout and library programming

There were 15 people in the room this morning in Cook where it seems like building an ark would make as much sense as talking about broadband. They have been part of a project (IRBC) with the Blandin Foundation and IRRRB focused on increasing use of broadband in the area. I’ll include full notes below – but a couple of highlights…

  • The library has a point system for teens that engage in the library (volunteer, check out books…). If you get enough points you get to an overnight at the library – taking advantage of broadband there.
  • The town halls are connected and offer wifi. People take advantage of it.
  • They are looking at classes on broadband as a home security tool.

Continue reading

Rock County selected as a Blandin Broadband Community

The Worthington Globe reports…

Blandin Foundation announced Friday that Rock County leaders were successful in their application to become a Blandin Broadband Community, one of four selected in the state.

The Blandin Broadband Communities program is an intensive, two-year partnership between Blandin Foundation and selected rural Minnesota communities. The program provides planning, technical and financial support to communities that are determined to design and drive digital technology initiatives that position their communities and every resident for greater success.

Rock County will join Swift County, Cannon Falls and Koochiching Technology Initiative in the 2018-20 cohort of Blandin Broadband Communities.

“High-speed Internet access — and the skills to use it — is essential to vibrant rural communities,” said Bernadine Joselyn, director of public policy and engagement.  “We’re excited to partner with Rock County to imagine new possibilities that come with enhanced Internet access and use.”

Koochiching County considers becoming a Blandin Broadband Community

According to the International Falls Journal

Background: Koochiching County officials will consider taking part in the Blandin Broadband Communities, or BBC, Program. The Blandin Foundation seeks four rural Minnesota communities to participate in the program. Selected through an application process, BBCs will define the technology goal, receive planning and technical assistance. They will also have access to resources to implement projects designed to make progress on their broadband and community technology enhancement goals.

Once selected, there is the opportunity to apply for up to $75,000 in grants over a two-year period, including feasibility studies or implementation of additions desired by the community.

An orientation with presenter Bill Coleman was held Thursday to discuss what the program is and strategic goals for a realistic application to the BBC.

The application deadline is May 31, with the grant application deadline in August, said Jim Yount, co-owner of Small Town Tech.

“We still have un-served and under-served areas within the county,” said Nevanen. “Although some strides have been made, it is an ongoing issue.”