Update on Redwood County’s Blandin supported Lead Fellowship

Thanks to Redwood County Economic Development Coordinator Briana Mumme for the update on their experience working with a Lead for America Fellow to improve broadband access across the County. It’s amazing to see what can get done in a year and it’s a great list for any county looking to further their broadband plans…

Redwood County EDA contracted for a two-year fellowship with Lead for America; American Connection Corps.  The Fellow was hired to serve as the County Broadband Coordinator effective August 2021 through August 2023.

The Fellow fulfilled the entire project scope within the first year!

The following goals were set and achieved:

  • Develop a broadband needs assessment for the county, which captures quantitative and qualitative data demonstrating the importance of broadband connection for the County;
  • Establish a map outlining the existing fiber connections, provider areas, expansion opportunities, and gaps;
  • Build comprehensive public awareness and excitement among county residents to advocate for broadband investment to the county;
  • Ensure that Redwood County is well positioned to successfully compete for state and federal investment into broadband by the end of the 2-year fellowship.

To fulfill those goals, the following strategies were implemented:

  • Participate in technical assistance programming through the Blandin Community Broadband Resources: Accelerate! Program;
  • Manage all communication regarding broadband with public, providers, county commissioners, EDA Board;
  • Develop and foster relationships with existing internet providers across the county;
  • Connect and establish relationships with businesses in the county to assess their broadband experiences, past/current/future needs;
  • Research other county case studies to learn best practices and common pitfalls for rural broadband development;
  • Identify potential funding opportunities, including the leveraging of existing resources in Minnesota’s Border to Border grants and other state and federal programs;
  • Conduct public educational workshops;
  • Serve as a coordinator and facilitator to community broadband meetings, ensuring comprehensive follow-up to action items and that proposed collaborative opportunities are implemented;
  • Establish key messages and creative opportunities of interest to funders/donors in order to garner expanded support for broadband.

As a result of these activities the following was accomplished:

  • Collaborated and established relationships with elected officials, ISP’s, business leaders, and community members.
  • Completed the Blandin Community Broadband Resources (CBR): Accelerate! Program.
  • Utilized the community members of the CBR team to provide ongoing input and support to the direction of the work.
  • Developed a vision statement, and received endorsements from the CBR group, County EDA Board, and County Commissioners
  • Facilitated monthly meetings with the EDA Broadband sub-committee
  • Hosted multiple meetings with internet service providers to include: Woodstock, Starlink, Arvig, Nuvera, MN Valley Telephone Company, MVTV Wireless
  • Participated in many media platforms to include: MPR, local Radio and Newspaper, Farmside Chat, Land O Lakes, Office of Broadband, and Governor’s Broadband Task Force.
  • Hosted two work sessions with the County Commissioners
  • Developed a webpage dedicated to broadband to provide an overview of what broadband is, why it’s important, current and future projects, and an opportunity for constituents to voice their broadband story. https://redwoodcountyeda.com/broadband/
  • Created Facebook Posts and utilized the County email notification system to communicate the county broadband status, EBB program, encourage engagement – collect pledges and letters of support.
  • Meetings were held with Townships and Cities to describe the value of broadband in their municipality and secure funding.
  • Secured $1.9M in County funds to support a Border-to-Border project to deploy fiber to 8 cities within the County. A total of 52 letters of support and 37 pledges were received to demonstrate community support.
  • There are multiple other broadband projects in development, pending funding programs which align with the project.

Blandin takes a look at last two years with grantees such as White Earth Nation

Regularly the Blandin Foundation takes a look at the various communities they have been working with to promote, deploy and use better broadband. They use the Mountain of Accountability Framework as a tool to help learn from the past two years. The graphic to the right gives an overview of the pieces of the assessment.  You can check out the full report to find out how many YouTube subscribers the Blandin Broadband channel has or total amount of grants awarded. But my favorite part is checking in on each of the communities helped – and for sake of archive and brevity of post I’m going to share them each separately:

White Earth Nation is the largest reservation in Minnesota.
The broadband situation across the reservation is uneven.
While nearly 90% of residents have access to fixed, non-mobile broadband that meets the 2026 state speed goal of
100 MBPS download and 20 MBPS upload, there is a broad
swath across the middle of the reservation that is un- or
underserved (red in the figure to the left.) Cellular service is
also a concern across the reservation.
The Steering Team’s focus was increasing Wi-Fi access across the reservation and getting devices and internet connections to those who need it most, which they deemed to be families with students, and elders.
The team instituted an elder lending program to provide devices and mobile hotspot access to older residents on an as-needed basis, with recipients being allowed to check out the devices for several weeks at a time. Along with the device lending, digital navigation services are provided on topics such as telemedicine, online classes or meetings, and social engagement.
The lending program for students and families focuses primarily on internet hotspots rather than devices, since
younger people often have device access through schools or
cell phones. The hotspots allow students access for schoolwork. Families living in tribally owned and operated
housing units were given priority.
Public access projects include installing Wi-Fi hotspots in communities to provide safe and secure locations for
residents to access the internet and installing cell signal boosters in communities with poor cell service. They will also install televisions in White Earth Public Transit buses to improve communications across the reservation, including announcements, daily information, and marketing of community events.

Blandin takes a look at last two years with grantees such as Otter Tail County

Regularly the Blandin Foundation takes a look at the various communities they have been working with to promote, deploy and use better broadband. They use the Mountain of Accountability Framework as a tool to help learn from the past two years. The graphic to the right gives an overview of the pieces of the assessment.  You can check out the full report to find out how many YouTube subscribers the Blandin Broadband channel has or total amount of grants awarded. But my favorite part is checking in on each of the communities helped – and for sake of archive and brevity of post I’m going to share them each separately:

Erin Smith, Otter Tail County BBC team member and Director of the Viking Library System, had this to say about her BBC experience during a meeting with Foundation staff in April 2021:
“During this past year broadband and these tools are how people have stayed connected. It’s so imperative that everyone has that opportunity – [both] during the pandemic and going forward too. I just think there’s a lot of purpose and meaning to the work… it’s been a bright spot!”
Indeed, as the pandemic took hold in 2020, participants in the county’s visioning process identified as priorities getting broadband access to families and individuals without
(through subsidized services, public Wi-Fi), enhancements to help kids be successful in the distant-learning environment imposed due to COVID, and public education around why broadband is important to everyone in the county – for schools, healthcare, attracting and retaining businesses, and more.
The Otter Tail County team implemented a number of projects to redress equity issues that came to light due to the COVID pandemic. For example, the county distributed one hundred Tech Packs to residents impacted by the pandemic. The packs contained a laptop computer, wireless hotspot device with six months of prepaid internet service, and digital resources for jobseekers from CareerForce. This
project was identified through the BBC visioning process, but the County primarily used CARES funding to pay for it, extending the reach of the overall BBC effort. Of the tech-pack recipients, 54% reported not having internet access at home.
Two other projects were identified through the BBC program but funded by CARES. The first was Smart Rooms – six indoor public meeting spaces with audiovisual equipment for use for job interviews, virtual meetings, distance learning, and more. The rooms are located at four public libraries, the Battle Lake City Hall, and the City of Vergas Event Center. More spaces may be identified and funded with Blandin dollars.
New public Wi-Fi access was made available in four locations: Battle Lake Public School parking lots, Underwood School activity buses, Kirkbride Park in Fergus Falls, and downtown New York Milles. More locations are being explored.
Two projects implemented address knowledge workforce. The first was a Virtual Career Fair and additional STEAM offerings in summer childcare programs. In previous years Greater Fergus Falls and the School District hosted in-person career fair to introduce students to local career opportunities. Shifting the fair to a virtual format actually allowed them to expand to six businesses outside the Fergus Falls area and expanded marketing efforts county-wide. The STEAM element allowed Fergus Falls YMCA to expand coding education and other technology education offerings. Also, Perham Boys & Girls Club added coding robots to their programming, and they explored digital media and arts in other kids’ programming. Another project focused on improving business resilience through technology by offering technology audits to local small businesses, and then using what they learned to provide specialized learning opportunities for participating businesses.
The Otter Tail County team made good use of the fifty PCs for People computers provided by Blandin Foundation. They targeted senior citizens and families receiving human
services assistance. They purchased webcams to complement the computers and offered tech support and digital literacy resources.

Blandin takes a look at last two years with grantees such as Chisago Lakes Area

  • Regularly the Blandin Foundation takes a look at the various communities they have been working with to promote, deploy and use better broadband. They use the Mountain of Accountability Framework as a tool to help learn from the past two years. The graphic to the right gives an overview of the pieces of the assessment.  You can check out the full report to find out how many YouTube subscribers the Blandin Broadband channel has or total amount of grants awarded. But my favorite part is checking in on each of the communities helped – and for sake of archive and brevity of post I’m going to share them each separately:

The Chisago Lakes Initiative (CLI) is a partnership formed in 2017 under the Initiative Foundation focused on supporting economic revitalization and quality of life in the
area, which is defined by the Chisago Lakes School District boundary in the southern part of the county. It serves as a cohesive voice for the five main municipalities located along
the Hwy 8 corridor: Chisago City, Lindstrom, Center City, Shafer, and Taylors Falls. Internet connectivity is a particular challenge to the area, and limits opportunity.
Two of the BBC projects implemented by the CLI team directly address the region’s limited broadband access. They purchased forty-five mobile cellular hotspots with unlimited data for community use. The hotspots were offered first to Chisago Lakes School District students who lacked adequate broadband to succeed in at-home learning. Remaining hotspots will be lent to community
members through the East Central Regional Library.
The Chisago Lakes team also conducted a community survey to gather data on current internet satisfaction levels and unmet needs; and promoted the Minnesota Speed Test
initiative. They will use this data to l help them talk with providers, community leaders, and legislators about broadband infrastructure needs across the region.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit seniors especially hard, greatly limiting social interactions.
Another project sought to provide devices and training to older adults, so they have a comfortable and safe way to learn and socialize.
Classes covered a variety of topics such as videoconference platforms, email, google and iCloud, social media, and more.
The school district, HRA-EDA, cable commission, and local manufacturers teamed up to produce virtual manufacturing tours to expand students’ exposure to technology and manufacturing as a career choice in the time of COVID. In-person tours have been offered to students for several years, but that isn’t as feasible now. Students will be able to the videos in school and then
connected with the business via videoconference
to ask questions and get a feel for the culture of
the workplace. Originally the team had hoped to
produce eight video tours, but because of scheduling difficulties and greater than anticipated production time they have narrowed it down to five – of which three are complete. All will be available for viewing on the Chamber’s
Finally, the Chisago Lakes Area sought to showcase local businesses with a new website for the Chisago Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce. The new website is easier to navigate and includes a data management system to provide higher value to the membership and community at large.

Sidebar: “This Blandin grant has given us is an opportunity to move and to do big, cool things for our community, despite all the noise and all the nonsense that’s happening outside of our doors. I am so appreciative for that because I feel right now is a time people are leaning into desperation in a lot of ways…We’ve been able to move forward, be unstuck in a very stuck time…which has made coming to work a lot of fun… thank you… you gave us the WD-40 we needed this past year.”
– Katie Malchow
Executive Director
Chisago Lakes Area
Chamber of Commerce

Lincoln County becomes a Blandin Broadband Community to continue broadband increase

The Marshall Independent reports…

Residents of Lincoln County have already done a lot of work to improve their Internet access. But there’s still plenty of work to do to catch up to present-day needs, said speakers at a virtual meeting this week.

It is true, the last county profiles indicted that they went from 40 percent access to broadband at 100 Mbps down and 20 up to 99 percent access! They are looking to do more with the broadband by becoming a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC)…

This year, Lincoln County was named one of six new Blandin Broadband Communities. The Blandin Broadband Community (BBC) program is a two-year partnership between rural Minnesota communities and the Blandin Foundation. The communities chosen for the program work with the foundation to develop local broadband projects. Lincoln County will need to allocate and spend up to $100,000 in funding.

“We’re so happy to have been chosen by Blandin,” Robinson said. “They’ve been a partner with Lincoln County for quite some time in our broadband goals.”

Over the past few years, fiber networks have been expanded in Lincoln County, and the city of Ivanhoe is now the only part of the county without fiber optic cable running to homes and businesses, Robinson said.

At this point, Lincoln County has done a good job of getting broadband, but there are still gaps in whether people can access and afford it, Robinson said.

“I do think we need to spend some time researching why they’re being left behind,” he said.

I suspect we’ll hear more later…

The next step in the process for Lincoln County will be an online brainstorming meeting on Tuesday. The meeting will be a chance for residents to talk about projects they would like to implement with BBC grant funds. The meeting will also talk about voting and volunteering for teams that will put projects into action, said Mary Magnuson of the Blandin Foundation.

Blandin Foundation selects Mille Lacs Tribal Economy for broadband program

Brainerd Dispatch reports

The Blandin Foundation recently announced the Mille Lacs Tribal Economy was selected to participate in the Community Broadband Resources: Accelerate Program.

The program will provide a 15-week course of study and education about broadband for a community team. The program consists of three parts — leadership education, information gathering and analysis and next steps. The project will also include community surveys and interviews with internet service providers. It is anticipated a final report from the team will be available by July 2021.

The Mille Lacs Tribal Economy encompasses the three districts of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe territory. The populations served by this program will include areas within the counties of Mille Lacs, Pine, and Aitkin; as well as the cities of Onamia, Wahkon, Isle, McGregor, Hinckley, and Sandstone. According to Minnesota Compass, there are 20,171 people who live in the Mille Lacs Tribal Economy who will be supported by this initiative and subsequent development of robust broadband infrastructure.

Blandin Foundation reported the ultimate vision is for all residents of the Mille Lacs Tribal Economy to be able to use “convenient, affordable world-class broadband networks that enable them to thrive in our communities and across the globe.”

Blandin Broadband Communities Update: fun broadband project descriptions

Today members of the current Blandin Broadband (BBC) cohort met to catch up. Communities include Chisago Lakes Area, Le Sueur County, Otter Tail County, Red Lake Nation and White Earth Nation. This is a group that signed up with Blandin to do broadband planning and programming a little more than a year ago. They are the group that signed up for one thing and then COVID happened and they (and the Blandin team) did an impressive job recalibrating to Zoom meetings and stalled or modified projects.

Today they met to catch up a little and talk about projects that were working well for them and get help for ones that weren’t I thought it would be fun to share the conversation:


Some quick notes of projects that were discussed in my break out room:

Otter Tail County spent CARES money on upgrading video conference spaces in the libraries and creating two new spaces in newly formed libraries. These are places where area residents and visitors (Otter Tail gets a lot of visitors!) can use the broadband and the equipment. Picture a Zoom set up on steroids – or picture the Zoom set up you wish you had the last time you really wanted to impress people in the Zoom room. The spaces are free and open to the public – you just need to register.

Le Sueur County has been working a lot of access to support broadband use. They had projects planned to support wifi on publinc transportation but some have been on hold because of access issues and COVID. They have a LEAD for America consultant coming in to help with Digital Navigation through the schools. Good question was raised about getting Digital Navigators to people over 50.

Central MN Coalition on Aging stepped in with some of the work they are doing with older folks. They have been working with the AARP startup. They have started a survey and have learned that businesses in their area really need help. They want to find out what people want to learn and how can they best learn it. Another good question was about how we teach young people to use technology for the work world. Sometimes we assume younger people know how to use technology but they may not know tools like email, mapping or other workforce skills.

South Central MN looking to expand use of Telepresence during pandemic and beyond

I’m pleased to share South Central Minnesota’s report issued reflecting use of telepresence by the Human Services Departments of Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Freeborn, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Rice, Sibley, and Watonwan Counties. Like many communities, they are innovating to meet the challenges of the pandemic but they are looking beyond that too…

The DHS/MNIT owned-and-operated telepresence network provides secure, encrypted, HIPAA compliant connections to over 6,000 users – which include Minnesota tribal nations, counties, law enforcement, courts, schools, mental health providers, other human service agencies, and those they serve.

The South-Central Community Based Initiative (SCCBI), an Adult Mental Health Initiative for the counties listed above, has found DHS/MNIT’s easy-to-use, cost effective, and expandable telepresence network to be highly successful at improving access to services.  Maintaining this network is critical to our ability to serve people.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders in the counties above [Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Freeborn, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Rice, Sibley, and Watonwan Counties] agreed to expand access to the existing project beyond mental health services, so we could safely serve the public in other program areas.  Using the DHS/MNIT network, we quickly added telepresence users to serve people easily through their home computer or smartphone.

Download the full report.

Le Sueur County selected for Blandin Community Broadband Program

New Prague Times reports…

Blandin Foundation announced Wednesday, March 11, it selected Le Sueur County for an intensive, twoyear partnership to advance local broadband initiatives.

Le Sueur County joins Chisago Lakes, Otter Tail County, Red Lake Nation, and White Earth Nation in their successful bids to become Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC).

“Le Sueur County has been partnering with the Blandin Foundation since the Region Nine Broadband Summit in early 2018,” said Barbara Droher Kline, BBC steering committee member. “The expertise and support through this partnership has brought us huge success with a State of Minnesota Border to Border grant. We are working hard to get more communities connected and being a Blandin Broadband Community will help us get there.”

Otter Tail County selected for Blandin Community Broadband Program

Perham Focus reports…

Blandin Foundation selected Otter Tail County for an intensive, two-year partnership to advance local broadband initiatives.

Otter Tail County joins Chisago Lakes, Le Sueur County, Red Lake Nation and White Earth Nation in becoming Blandin Broadband Communities, according to a Blandin Foundation news release. Foundation staff and consultants will work with the five communities to provide planning, technical and financial support as diverse, local leadership teams design and drive digital technology initiatives to bring greater success to their communities.

Communities were selected based on their demonstrated commitment to work together across sectors to set and meet information technology goals and bridge digital divides. Otter Tail County’s and White Earth Nation’s participation in the BBC program is supported with a $25,000 grant from West Central Initiative.

Otter Tail County joins 44 rural Minnesota communities that have gone through the BBC program.

Next steps for each community includes assessing the community’s current broadband access and use and holding a series of public planning meetings.

Mt. Iron-Buhl – Blandin Broadband Community Reflection (St Louis County)

The Blandin Foundation recently published an inclusive assessment of the last cohort of Blandin Broadband Communities. Including a segment on Mt. Iron-Buhl…

The IRBC group in Mountain Iron-Buhl (MIB) was led by the school district. During the first round, several of the team’s projects were school-based, including instillation of Wi-Fi on buses; procuring equipment for a new journalism class and Makerspace classroom; and bringing technology to outdoor classroom opportunities.

Other projects supported by the MIB BBC team included: • New web-presence for Great Scott Township12

• upgraded technology at the government buildings in Great Scott and Kinney;

• upgraded Wi-Fi at Mt. Iron City Hall, the Library, and other public spaces around town

• hosted technology breakfasts and technology training classes, and

• offered marketing audits for area businesses.

During the second round, the MIB BBC team continued with projects to support the use of enhanced technology in the school forest by acquiring twelve GPS units, geocaching container, a weather station, and a community greenhouse. The school aspires to attract even more users of the forest through enhanced environmental learning, and to open up the STEM Lab and technology offerings to the public. The school has sought and received additional funding that will allow instructors to develop curricula, programming and other opportunities for community members to interact with the technology. Participants will learn about graphic design, CAD, web design, video editing and publishing, and engineering. The school also is establishing a community journalism program and opening its journalism program to community members.

Other community-generated projects that received MIB’s BBC support include:

• An upgrade to the Open Y software program and upgraded technology at the Mesabi YMCA, including offering Wi-Fi throughout the building

• A new ap developed for the City of Mountain Iron to provide information to residents

• Improved Wi-Fi at Mountain Iron Community Center

One self-described “direct” result of the work of the MIB BBC team that required no funding, but did require leadership, was the decision by the Range Area Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) to create, host, and manage a website to serve as a central shared location for all of the documents related to broadband projects on the Iron Range, including feasibility studies, public presentations, fact sheets, and media reports.  Fulfilling this information management function is a key component of the civic infrastructure necessary to support collective impact, according to Kania and Kramer of FSK and Harvard’s Kennedy School. Claiming and executing ownership of this project undergirds the enhanced role RAMS has begun to play as an advocate for the broadband needs of its members since joining BCBP.

Grizzlies (Bois Forte, Cook, Orr) – Blandin Broadband Community Reflection (St Louis County)

The Blandin Foundation recently published an inclusive assessment of the last cohort of Blandin Broadband Communities. Including a segment on Grizzlies (Bois Forte, Cook, Orr)…

The Grizzlies is the mascot for North Woods School, which was opened in 2012 when the schools in Cook, Orr and Bois Forte were consolidated; and now the name for the IRBC effort within the school district’s boundaries.

Broadband access and use are both key concerns for this sparsely populated area. The region’s long-standing efforts to partner with existing providers began to pay off in 2020 when Bois Forte Tribal Government received Border-to-Border Broadband grant funding to connect ten unserved and 468 underserved locations throughout four sectors of the Bois Forte Reservation. (see page xx for details)

Other first round projects that address both access and use included adding public hotspots to the Cook Library and the Orr Center; upgrading computer labs in Nett Lake, the Orr Center, and at the Cook Library; purchasing five mobile hotspots for checkout at the Cook Library; and hosting a wide variety of technology trainings throughout the three communities.

For the second round, the Grizzlies are continuing with adult education classes and technology support at the Orr Center and the Cook Library. They’ll also expand on the QuickBooks training classes that were offered to small business owners during round one.

The Bois Forte Reservation acknowledges that its heritage, language, and culture are at risk. To help preserve and document for future generations existing cultural knowledge and practices the tribe will use second round project funds to establish a video creation, collection and archiving program of culturally relevant materials.

Finally, when looking at project ideas to unite the three communities that now share a school, the IRBC team agreed that creating a sports blog and website would fulfill that goal. Students and community members will contribute content to the site, which will include a journalism education component. Plans for the site include development of video and radio broadcasting capability through Bois Forte Reservation’s KBFT Radio.

Ely – Blandin Broadband Community Reflection (St Louis County)

The Blandin Foundation recently published an inclusive assessment of the last cohort of Blandin Broadband Communities. Including a segment on Ely…

Ely completed a variety of projects during the first round of IRBC work, including: a feasibility study of better connectivity throughout the school district; opening of a thriving coworking space, ”Ten Below”; creation of a showcase regional marketing website, the Elyite10; support to local businesses and entrepreneurs through technology and social media consulting, training, and meetups; and a broadband use and business development survey to support community efforts to recruit better broadband services.

The second round of projects developed by the Ely BBC team leverage the power of the internet as an engine of economic development and quality of life.  They include creating a complete Google Local Listings on behalf of all businesses in Ely, which will make those businesses more visible online. Ten Below coworking space will facilitate free professional development “skillshares” workshops for local business owners on leveraging the power of the internet and social media to drive engagement and sales year-round.

Hak Ely will utilize the Meetup.com event-marketing and scheduling platform to allow organizations to input their own events into a shared marketing platform. Proximity marketing is another fun way to engage park visitors and generate greater awareness about scheduled events and activities; Bluetooth enabled beacons will push notifications to visitors’ devices. A video series will further engage residents, visitors, and potential visitors by highlighting stories of the unique characters found within the community.

The arts is a major asset in Ely, and another project will create an internetbased directory that will link artists, art consumers, and materials providers in an easy to access and maintain website.

Chisholm – Blandin Broadband Community Reflection (St Louis County)

The Blandin Foundation recently published an inclusive assessment of the last cohort of Blandin Broadband Communities. Including a segment on Chisholm…

During its first round as a BBC, the Chisholm team supported projects to fund Wi-Fi on two school buses; develop a community website/portal9; create Wi-Fi hotspots at the Chisholm Public Library, Balkan Community Center, and the Lake Street Pocket Park;  make ten mobile hot spots available for check-out at the public library; offer  computer training programs, and provide device training to older adults. The team also helped the Minnesota Discovery Center upgrade the facility’s internet connection and improve Wi-Fi throughout the building and grounds.  The team continues to explore the idea of opening a coworking/business center in town.

The BBC team in Chisholm underwent a leadership change between the first and second rounds of BBC grant funding. ReGen, a nonprofit organization of young Iron Rangers, took over project leadership from Chisholm EDA. Planning continues, but at the time of this writing the following two projects were under implementation:

  • The first project will allow the schools to acquire 100 mobile internet hotspots to address the needs of the 100 (out of 535) school-age children in the Chisholm Public Schools who lack internet access at home. Students will be able to check out the hotspots for two-week intervals.

  • The second project seeks to enhance programming at Minnesota Discovery Center by helping fund the purchase of distance learning equipment and curriculum development staff can use to conduct online educational field trips. This will expand the outreach capacity of the center and increase the visibility of the region.

Aitkin County– Blandin Broadband Community Reflection

The Blandin Foundation recently published an inclusive assessment of the last cohort of Blandin Broadband Communities. Including a segment on Aitkin County…

Aitkin County invested most of its first round of IRBC grant funds on improving broadband access in this very poorly served county.  These investments included upgrading satellite internet service to Long Lake Conservation Center, acquiring library mobile hotspots for check out, installing Wi-Fi on buses, and equipping public meeting centers with internet, computers and other technology tools.

The public meeting centers established with round one funding have seen considerable use, so with the second grant round the Aitkin BBC team is investing in additional technology upgrades for those centers. They have continued their focus on public access by funding the establishment of a Wi-Fi hotspot at the Jacobson Community Center, the first public hotspot in the town. The team also has invested in a fiber connection build to Long Lake Conservation Center, finally bringing to the environmental learning center the future proof technology solution it needs to support program delivery across its large and wooded campus.

Lastly, the county is working with Riverwood Healthcare Center to increase MyChart usage amongst patients and caregivers to improve patient outcomes and give them a greater feeling of ownership over their health and treatment options.