Blandin Foundation funds Iron Range Tourism Bureau projects

Hometown Focus reports on projects in the following communities Aurora, Biwabik, Chisholm, Embarrass, Eveleth, Gilbert, Hibbing, Hoyt Lakes, Mountain Iron, Virginia and surrounding townships…

With a portion of its Blandin Broadband Community grant, the Iron Range Tourism Bureau has awarded technology mini-grants of $1,500 each to regional nonprofits that serve visitors. Grants were given to:

  • Club Mesabi,
    • Embarrass Township/Finnish Homestead Tours,
    • Eveleth Heritage Society,
    • Hibbing Historical Society Museum,
    • Hibbing Tourist Center,
    • Iron Range Historical Society,
    • Camp Vermilion,
    • Lyric Center for the Arts,
    • Minnesota Museum of Mining,
    • Minnesota Discovery Center,
    • SISU Heritage/Nelimark Museum, and
    • Virginia Area Historical Society.

“Through the Blandin Broadband grant, we’ve been able to assist our valued partners in tourism, namely organizations that serve visitors and help preserve our area’s history,” said Beth Pierce, executive director of the Iron Range Tourism Bureau. “Ultimately, these grants will impact the visitor experience— whether tourists or locals—in a positive way, and help these nonprofits achieve their own goals.”

They also mention a few past projects…

Other Blandin Broadband Communities Program initiatives being undertaken by the Iron Range Tourism Bureau include the creation of a virtual reality mine tour, a talent attraction website, a digital map of arts and artists, and a local “good news” campaign. For more information, contact Pierce at or 218-749-8161.

Sen Klobuchar on rural broadband mentions Blandin Foundation

Campaigning in Las Vegas, Senator Amy Klobuchar discusses how she would fight to expand broadband internet access. She speaks about the need of partnerships and flexibility in planning ubiquitous broadband and reminds the crowd that she used to be a telecom lawyer. She talks about how to insure that big telecom doesn’t come in to prevent local government from building or running public networks. And she gives a nice nod to the work of the Blandin Foundation

It is a combination responsibility. In another life, I did Telcom law in the. Private sector for years I represented MCI when they were trying to bust into the local and long-distance markets and create more competition which helped to bring those rates down. That experience helps me to get this. I also serve on the commerce committee. I plan is to get this done by 2022.

There is every reason to think we can do that, connect every area of the country, not to dial up slow speed, but actual high-speed internet. The way you pay for it is the combination of things. Part of the infrastructure plan I just mentioned, but two, some of the money can come from the universal service fund which is traditionally used for underserved areas. Whether it be impoverished areas, rural areas, and you want to pay for local service. Some of that money can go to broadband as well.

One of the problems that i have identified spending a lot of time in rural areas and meeting with people in small telephone companies is sometimes that money is going to carriers that are not using it. Particularly some of the bigger carriers or midsize ones that are not using it to build out. You have this crazy patchwork situation where one town in one area will have high-speed internet, and the other wand.

I remember being in a tribal area in Minnesota where one of the houses had decided to pay for high-speed internet, which was very expensive because they did not have it on the reservation. And all of these kids every day would go to the guys yard to do their homework. Or the doctor who would — who could get internet in the hospital, but he can’t get it at home and you have emergency calls. He would have to, if he wanted to bring up an x-ray or look at other things, he had to go to the McDonald’s parking lot or the farmer, and farming has become increasingly high-tech with the machinery and the like, who wants to contact customers has to go to — drive miles to go to a target. That is what is happening.

I think the answer is a combination of things like everything else if you are realistic. It is getting the direct funding through this infrastructure package. The funding for internet goes through the USDA, as well as the commerce to mark — commerce department. . There are local government owned situations in the rural areas.

One of them, the Blandin foundation in Minnesota has spent a lot of time working on this. I don’t think it is one-size-fits-all. The key is to make sure the money is not going to phone companies that are not using it. A senator and i, the republican from South Dakota, had done work on this to try to get people with standalone internet — cell phone service to get better internet service. A bunch of things we could do.

You have to have a president step back, look at these programs, and figure out that it is literally mapping exactly so that we have accurate data about where it is and where it isn’t. And then we get the resources to where they are supposed to go.

Blandin on Broadband eNews: MN Monthly Recap (Feb 2020)

Gov Walz announces 2019 MN Broadband Grant awards
The Governor announces $23 million in broadband grants to Minnesota communities. He and Representative Ecklund also announce plans to recommend $30 million of one-off funding from the supplemental budget for next year’s grants. (Video online.) Get greater details

MN Broadband Task Force Jan 2020 Meeting Notes
The Minnesota Broadband Coalition asks the Task Force to send a letter to the Legislature supporting their recommendation for $30 million from the supplemental budget for more grants in 2020. (Full notes and video online.)

Telehealth saves Lives in Rural Areas
A Mayo Clinic study finds Telehealth sharply reduces risk of death within 30 days. In Ohio, portable CT scanner and broadband buy precious minutes in stroke detection in rural areas. And beyond telemedicine, the industry is looking at tools to help with carers too.

2019 MN Broadband County profiles
Blandin Foundation has posted PDFs, maps and content from the 2019 profiles in user-friendly formats online.

State Policy Issues

Federal Policy Issues

Vendor News

Local Broadband News

Broadband is a bright idea that sets Bemidji apart

Blue Earth County
Mankato Free Press reacts to Blue Earth County broadband feasibility study

Blue Earth County’s broadband feasibility study outlines some tough costs

Community celebrates $5.2 million in USDA funding in Brainerd

Senators Klobuchar and Smith celebrate $5 million federal broadband funding in Brainerd

Telehealth in Cambridge brings tech solutions to the neonatal ward

Senator Westrom talks to high school seniors in Campbell about broadband

Douglas (and Stearns) Counties
MN Broadband Grants in Douglas and Stearns County

Ely looks to local provider for next broadband grant opportunity

Fillmore County
USDA Reconnect: Harmony Telephone gets $5.4 million

Fond du Lac Reservation
MN Broadband Grants in Fond du Lac, Cloquet and Perch Lake

MN Broadband grants in Houston MN

Iron Range
CTC Receives $5.2 million from USDA to serve Cherry and Great Scott townships on the Iron Range

Koochiching County
MN Broadband Grants in Koochiching County and a nod to Rep Ecklund

Le Sueur County
MN Broadband Grants in Le Sueur County

Gov Walz visits MN Broadband Grant recipient in Melrose

MN Broadband grants in Rosemount (Dakota County)

Broadband grants in Scandia where the broadband team wins Good Neighbor Award

St Louis County
MN Broadband Grants in Rice Lake, Brown Lake and Ramey

Swift County
Broadband in Swift County means Rick Molenaar lives local yet works out of San Francisco

Candidate Bloomberg visits Wells MN – mentions investing in broadband

Winona (and Houston) Counties
MN Broadband Grants in Houston and Winona Counties

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

We are looking to add MN broadband-related events to the Blandin on Broadband blog calendar. If you have an event you’d like to add please send it to

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

Two of the three communities that participated in our Community Broadband Planning Charrette at the October 2018 Broadband Conference formed public-private partnerships that received significant state broadband grant awards announced last week.  That is a pretty good result just over one year.  Both Koochiching (w/Paul Bunyan) and Le Sueur (w/BevComm) Counties were at the very early stages of organizing their broadband efforts and their community teams spent two days with quality broadband consultants (great thanks to Cooperative Network Services and Finley Engineering, respectively) studying maps, analyzing survey results and discussing financing scenarios.  At the end of the conference, both teams understood what was possible and what local efforts would be necessary for a successful partnership.  With both Paul Bunyan and BevComm representatives at the conference, discussions commenced!

Our Blandin team has been discussing ways that we can help those who are either just beginning their broadband development efforts or those that still struggle to attract the state or federal funding necessary to implement a successful project.  We have some ideas.  If the broadband is deficient in your community or county and you think that there would be a team ready to work to solve this problem, please contact me to discuss your situation.  You can reach me at 651-491-2551 or  You can also complete a short online form at the Community Broadband Resources Program description at and we will contact you.

Community celebrates $5.2 million in USDA funding in Brainerd

I’m all about Brainerd today because local news was all about Brainerd yesterday – and their recent $5.2 million funding from the USDA ReConnect program. WDIO TV reports on the local reaction to the funding…

People choose to live in the country for a reason. But some make sacrifices, like going without high speed internet.

That’s about to change for about 700 households in the Cherry area and east of the airport in Hibbing. “I’ve got goosebumps,” shared Kip Borbiconi, who lives in Cherry.

A $7 million dollar broadband expansion project will break ground this spring. This has been a huge effort for several years on behalf of many stakeholders. A $5.2 million dollar grant from the USDA that was just announced means it can move forward.

They talk about the infrastructure…

It will be built by CTC, in partnership with the Northeast Service Cooperative. “We’ve already been talking to residents and businesses, to see what we can offer. Pre-sign up is going on now,” explained Anita Hollenhorst, from CTC. “Once the ground thaws, we will start digging.” ….

The NESC already has 1200 miles of fiber line they are operating. The IRRRB, St. Louis County, local school districts, and others have helped along the way. Executive Director for RAMS, Steve Giorgi, said, “Expanding broadband has been a priority for us. We wouldn’t be here without Blandin and the IRRRB recognizing how important this is for the Range.”

Give a nice nod to Blandin Broadband Communities initiative in the area…

The Blandin Broadband Community Group helped with a feasiblity study to get the grant going. Tom Whiteside was part of the group. “This is going to bring the Iron Range in to the future,” Whiteside said.

And talk about where to go for more info…

There are open houses scheduled for the end of February at the Cherry Town Hall. February 27th in the evening and February 28th in the morning. More details to come later.

Blandin on Broadband eNews: MN Monthly Recap (Jan 2020)

Cooperatives Excel at rural broadband – how can we help?
The Institute for Local Self Reliance looks at how communities can help cooperatives bring better broadband to rural areas.

Change in .org ownership
Historically the .org top level domain has been reserved (and later simply encouraged) for nonprofits. A private company just bought the .org registry; it will be interesting to see the impact.

Blandin Matrix of Broadband Projects
Blandin Foundation posts an updated version of the Blandin Broadband Communities project matrix. It includes brief descriptions of projects supported by Blandin and deployed by BBC participants.

MN Broadband Task Force
The latest iteration of the Minnesota Broadband Task Force met for the first time in December. Members talk about why they wanted to be a part of local broadband decision making. (Includes video.)

State Policy Issues

Federal Policy Issues

Vendor News

Local Broadband News

Aitkin County
Aitkin County’s Riverwood Healthcare Center gets telehealth help with Blandin Foundation support

Paul Bunyan introduces GigaZone Blast Wi-Fi with Wi-Fi 6 technology

Cannon Falls
Cannon Falls memory care facility gets WellnessVR

Hibbing opens first co-working space

International Falls
International Falls supports federal broadband investment

Kandiyohi County
Kandiyohi County doing feasibility study to investigate broadband grant options

Lake County
No more County-wide 911 outages in Lake County

Senator Klobuchar’s team talks to Mankato about broadband, housing, transportation and childcare (video included)

Waseca’s Theresa Sunde appointed to Minnesota Governor’s Broadband Task Force

White Earth
White Earth Tribal Council and local Blandin Broadband Community partner on local WiFi access

Senator Klobuchar’s team talks to Windom about broadband, housing, transportation and childcare (video included)

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

We are looking to add MN broadband-related events to the Blandin on Broadband blog calendar. If you have an event you’d like to add please send it to

Stirring the Pot – by Bill Coleman

Doug Dawson, in his always interesting blog “Pots and Pans”, has an informative article about Chattanooga and their efforts to support entrepreneurship, spur innovation and address digital equity (  I highly recommend that you subscribe to this blog as well as the Blandin on Broadband ( blog for daily updates on all things important to community broadband and economic development leaders.

Minnesota is lucky to have fiber networks like Chattanooga’s in many rural communities and counties.  When you look at the DEED broadband maps, these areas shine bright green as having at least 100 Mb/20 Mb broadband service that includes all of the Fiber to the Home (FTTH) networks and most cable modem services.  The 100% FTTH areas are likely have a minimum of symmetrical 100 Mb/100 Mb service and probably symmetrical Gigabit services available not only in the community, but also in the rural countryside.  It is interesting, maybe even disturbing, that Chattanooga has established a national brand as a tech-centric, fiber-connected community while Minnesota’s thousands of square miles of fiber networks are virtually invisible on the national economic development scene.

Why?  I think that while some Minnesota communities and regions are active in promoting some elements of technology-based economic development, it seems to me that they are too few in number, too limited in scope, and certainly, too limited in self-promotion.  This is a missed opportunity for collaboration between communities and broadband providers, individually and collectively!  If you think that I am wrong on this, let’s hear about it so we can promote it on the Blandin Blog!

If you think that your area has unrealized potential for technology-focused community vitality, you should know Blandin will soon be selecting four Blandin Broadband Communities shortly after the January 24th application deadline.  In addition to community facilitation using the six element Intelligent Community framework (, the Foundation provides financial resources to implement projects to spur community vitality.  The Blandin team is happy to help your cross-sector leadership team fully consider this program as an option for your community.   Check out the program details at

Even if you decide to pass on the Blandin Broadband Communities opportunity, you should know that thirty-two hours of ad hoc community technical assistance is always easily available via Blandin’s Community Broadband Resources Program to help spur either broadband infrastructure, adoption and/or economic development initiatives.

Chattanooga’s municipal network ownership enables easy integration with other city initiatives.  With private and even co-op ownership of most Minnesota’s broadband networks, it takes some additional effort for collaborative provider partnerships. More and more sophisticated broadband users are good for providers; they should be interested in helping your community to thrive via technology. I urge you to contact your broadband provider(s) to discuss partnership opportunities. In addition to the Blandin Broadband Communities Program, a good starting point would be completion of DEED’s new Telecommuter Ready ( certification program.

WellnessVR Holiday delivery to Cannon Falls

I’m super excited to share this story about Chuck Olsen and Visual bringing virtual reality to Cannon Falls memory care facilities…

More on the video from Visual

The city of Cannon Falls, Minnesota ordered #WellnessVR headsets for their Memory Care units in hope they’d arrive in time for the holidays. We got them setup and took a little road trip to give this story a happy ending. 🙂 Spending time on a Maui beach or feeding cows on a farm is just the thing to chase away the winter sads. They’re already using the headsets with family members and all are loving it. Thanks to the Blandin Foundation for providing the technology grant, and to Ann Treacy for inviting us to speak at the Blandin Broadband conference every year to connect with rural communities who can fund and benefit from innovative digital health technology like virtual reality.

VR is amazing to me and it seems like a fix for lots of mental health issues for people of all ages.

Hibbing opens first co-working space – so maybe you can extend your next trip?

Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation’s newsletter, The Ranger reports…

Entrepreneur Karine Woodman established TechTank, Hibbing’s first co-working space that is shared by several workers from different organizations and companies. The arrangement enables cost savings for the member occupants through common infrastructure related to utilities, broadband and office equipment.

Woodman purchased a 3,500-square-foot building near the city’s downtown business corridor to launch TechTank. She completely renovated the interior and exterior and utilized a Business Energy Retrofit (BER) grant to help pay for upgrades to the HVAC systems.

TechTank members have access to contemporary work spaces, fiber optic internet, printing services, private rooms, conference rooms with meeting tools such as TVs, teleconference equipment and whiteboard walls. There is free parking, indoor and outdoor collaboration space and educational events. Monthly, daily and yearly memberships are available, and members have round-the-clock access to the secure work space. Two conference rooms are also available for half and full-day rental with seating to accommodate up to 16 people.

According to Small Business Trends, experts estimated that 1,000 new co-working spaces opened in the United States during 2018, and almost 700 are expected to open by the end of this year.