Bois Forte Band of Chippewa expands broadband on the Iron Range

The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board reports in their e-newsletter…

Bois Forte Band of Chippewa is constructing a fiber-to-the-home buildout to bring high speed broadband to its reservation. The original project began three years ago and included about 440 homes within the reservation boundaries. Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation supported the initial project with a $579,272 Broadband Infrastructure grant. Other funding partners included Shakopee Mdewakanton Community ($600,000) and Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development ($1,158,545).
Bois Forte recently received a $19.8 million grant from National Telecommunications and Information Administrations (NTIA) Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. The funding will enable Bois Forte to continue its commitment to broadband and build out reservation areas surrounding Lake Vermilion, city of Orr and Pelican Lake, connecting an additional 3,200 homes.
When both projects are complete, a combined total of more than 3,600 homes, numerous businesses and several community facilities will be connected.
Consolidated Telephone Company (CTC) will oversee the project design, engineering and construction of 375 miles of new fiber optic cable. In its assessment process, CTC concluded that 98% of the locations within the project area are unserved meaning they lack broadband speeds of less than 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload. When the project is complete, the locations will have access to speeds of over 1 Gigabit per second.
“Bois Forte is continually working to improve the economic viability and quality of life for our bandmembers,” said Bois Forte Information Technology Director Randy Long. “Broadband service is one of the key areas we are focusing on. Currently, it is the largest barrier limiting us from competing and attracting jobs within the reservation area. It will also help our families be better connected to schools, medical facilities and cultural activities.”
Bois Forte Band of Chippewa (also referred to as Ojibwe) is a sovereign, federally recognized Native American Tribal Nation whose people have lived in northeastern Minnesota for centuries. Their reservation land is located within the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation service area. In addition to the residential homes, there are approximately 25 businesses that are either tribal government-owned or privately-owned.
Email Whitney Ridlon for Broadband Infrastructure grant information, or call her at 218-735-3004.

Business North looks at Broadband champions on the Iron Range (MN): Blandin Foundation, NESC and IRRR

Business North takes a look back at broadband projects on the Iron Range. Starting with a wide lens…

“In 2010, internet connectivity in rural places was spotty and underutilized,” said Mary Magnuson, the Blandin Foundation’s grants program officer for rural placemaking. “Minnesota was ranked No. 23 in the U.S. for speed, and broadband was defined as 768 kilobits-per-second download and 200 Kbps upload – just enough to support slow video streaming.”

The broadband landscape across Northeastern Minnesota, and the state in general, has changed significantly since then, according to Magnuson, with gains made for providing access to high-speed connectivity. It comes at a time when such internet connections have become critical in business, education and often in day-to-day life.

“As of May 2022,” she said, “88.07% of Minnesota households have access to the 2026 state goal of 100 megabits per second download and 20 Mbps upload,” Magnuson said. “More people are working online, going to school online, seeing healthcare specialists online, and solving more of today’s challenges through solutions made possible through high-speed broadband internet.”

And calling out local champions, such as the Blandin Foundation…

Broadband was a long-term investment for Blandin Foundation, according to Magnuson. Since 2004, Blandin Foundation invested nearly $5.3 million in grants and leveraged more than $17 million to support 850 projects implemented across 61 counties and five tribal nations in Minnesota.


Northeast Service Cooperative (NESC) in Mountain Iron, one of nine Minnesota service cooperatives, has designed and built a fiber-optic backbone for underserved and unserved areas.

NESC initially built an 865-mile fiber optic network across St. Louis, Lake, Cook, Koochiching, Carlton, Pine, Itasca and Aitkin counties. The Northeast Fiber Network originally tapped a $43.5 million federally funded grant/loan project in 2010 through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities.


When Whitney Ridlon joined the Department of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation (IRRR) in 2014, the agency was evaluating broadband infrastructure needs across the region. The agency partnered with Blandin Foundation and Blandin Broadband Communities to better understand existing broadband assets, such as the NESC “middle mile.” Legislation created by the state further enabled the IRRR to work with communities to meet the state’s broadband speed goals.

Since 2015, IRRR invested $5.6 million in broadband infrastructure connecting 6,617 households, with a total investment of $23 million.

Feasibility study is first step to better broadband in Greenwood MN (St Louis County)

The Timber Jay does a nice job detailing a recent (Oct 29) meeting in Greenwood Township to discuss bringing better broadband to the community. I wasn’t there but it sounds like meetings I have attended in the past. If you live in an area with good broadband and you have any interest in knowing how the other half lives and/or if you’re a policymaker, this article strikes me as a good example of what people deal with in some rural areas….

[From Frontier] Bohler was one of over a half dozen local elected officials and representatives of telecommunications companies and state agencies who came to speak at a roundtable-style meeting here on Tuesday to discuss telephone and internet issues in the township. About 50 area residents filled the town hall at the Oct. 29 meeting.
Frontier currently supplies DSL level service in many areas of the township. “Most homes can get 10 mbps service,” said Bohler, “or a little higher if they are near a terminal node.”
For rural telecommunications providers, it comes down to numbers.
“Folks here are spread out,” said Bohler, noting that raises the cost per household for providing upgraded service. “State funding is vital in making the projects economically viable,” he said.
Fiber optic cable has already been installed in several of the more populated areas of the township, but at present, only the town hall has been connected to the broadband-level service. This fiber, installed by the Northeast Service Coop, stretches down Echo Point as far as the Bois Forte Reservation, down Birch Point, Moccasin Point, and toward Frazer Bay. But whether that fiber could be used to connect to individual homes and businesses in those areas is still an open question.
Audience members stressed the need for reliable service at speeds that would allow residents to work from home, having the township apply for state or federal grant funding to get a project started, and making sure the quality of internet service is sufficient for the needs of area businesses.

So much to unpack here – and I do this for readers who don’t live in these areas. First, he says “most homes can get 10 Mbps service” – I assume this means 10 Mbps down and likely 1 Mbps up. For federal funding that 10/1 speed is a benchmark. For comparison, the MN state speed goal for 2026 is 100/20.

Second, “State funding is vital in making the projects economically viable” – no explanation required but worth highlighting.

Third, “Fiber optic cable has already been installed in several of the more populated areas of the township, but at present, only the town hall has been connected to the broadband-level service.” How can a community thrive when they are looking at 10/1 access and their neighbors have fiber? Where do you buy a house, start a business or plan your vacation? Rural broadband may be expensive but the cost of not getting it may be higher in the long run.

In Greenwood, the commitment to move forward has been made…

Speakers all agreed that conducting a feasibility study was the most important first step. That study helps to determine how many residences and businesses desire high-speed service, how much they can afford to pay, and exactly where they are all located in the township. The study is also a prerequisite for any request for any kind of funding application.
Such a study is about to begin, thanks to the efforts of the local Blandin Broadband Committee, which is being led in large part by Greenwood residents Joanne, John, and Kate Bassing. The township has committed to help fund the feasibility study, which ensures that data on Greenwood’s needs and residents will be part of the study. The Blandin Foundation is providing matching funds for this study and will host a kickoff event for the feasibility study on Nov. 8 in Aurora.

The article goes on to detail potential pricing or at least factors that might impact pricing and talks about what broadband leaders are doing in communities in the area to make this happen. The costs are staggering (“$20,000 – $25,000 per mile to bury fiber optic cable, but that cost could double if the ground has bedrock”) and the volunteer hours are long. But the plan moves forward!

Iron Range Tourism struts their broadband stuff: putting local art on the map and more

We made our last Strut Your Stuff visit today with the Iron Range Tourism. It was fun to hear about their projects.

Artist database/map
Creating a map of local artists. It’s given a broader range of artists attention. The State Arts Board has been working on something similar. So we might be a pilot. One difficulty has been defining a location for the artists. Often the artist would prefer to list a location where their art is available, not their home where they may work.

They are using MailChimp and could send out annual emails to update any info. It would be nice to create a color coded map (different colors for types of art) but with a Google map that’s difficult when people don’t have exact addresses. They are also trying to make it mobile-friendly. There is an opportunity to showcase and get more info at a statewide artist summit.

Also working on tablets and kiosks. They are working on making the arts site the homepage.

Digital Marketing
Trying to get in with folks who don’t traditionally focus on marketing – folks who provide services. We help them claim their Google Location. We also have funds to have small sessions in each member community – especially in how to lift each other up as a community via tagging and shared hash tags.

We will be able to get into each community – starting with restaurants. That’s a good hook to spread the word. We’ll get focused this fall, during a slower season.

Internet Access Assessment
We haven’t been able to meet this summer. We are going to try to track access in campgrounds and other areas. But summer is their busiest time so we decided maybe a phone survey in the fall would be a better time to gather info. It might be nice to have someone do a speed test too – although experience would be dependent on number of guests.

Doing a survey would be a nice way to figure out what people need on a slow day versus a busy day. And you might create a list of the best places to stay if access is a priority.

Talent Attraction Microsite
They have a plan and ideas on what we want. They are working with three groups to define their needs: Chambers, businesses and potential workers. The Tourism Board is also getting a new website so there’s an opportunity to make sure that they complement each other.

Maybe there’s an opportunity to match this with the interview station they are working on with the Laurentian Chamber.

Virtual Reality Mine Tour
Might not be done until next year – but it’s going.

Local Pride
A way to get local people more enthusiastic about where they live. A social media initiative to change the narrative. It might be nice to get local editors to feature arts and culture once a week.

Four MN communities launch into better broadband with the IRBC

A couple weeks ago, I shared the announcement of the four new IRBC (Iron Range Broadband Communities). They will be working with the Blandin Foundation broadband team to better use broadband locally to help build demand and build the communities. Today they met to launch the programs and I was on hand. The day is an introduction to the program – they will create a team, vision and plan over the next few months. That will culminate into grant proposals and they will spend 18 months deploying, assessing and iterating plans.

They also talk about what success of the program would mean to them. I was lucky enough to attend the session and record those goals. My favorite line (a little misquoted) is – our community is at a crossroad. We could be terrible or great. Broadband will make us great.

And one community was kind enough to meet for a follow up:

It will be fun to watch their projects progress.

Will Morse township strike out on their own for broadband without Ely-Area Join Powers?

The Ely-area Community Economic Development Joint Powers Board met last month to discuss a numb of issues. The Joint Powers Board is a collection of local communities working together to expand economic opportunities in the area. But as a recent article in the Timberjay points out, there are times when the members have to balance community with regional goals and needs. That came up with broadband…

Morse Township representatives dropped a bombshell on the Joint Powers Board by announcing they could be stepping away from an area-wide broadband project and going with their own plan.

The recently-completed broadband feasibility study, partially funded through the Blandin Foundation, is moving into the next phase, according to Novak, to determine costs and coverage area.

“We are looking at getting this off the ground quickly and offering a basic core of fiber optic service tied to the Northeast Service Co-op, and run the fiber to some poles and provide wireless broadband across the lake to Burntside and within the school district, and later on, as revenues come in, to start reinvesting and running fiber all over,” he said.

“As we were all participants in that study, it is upon us as leaders to make a decision if you are going to continue to be in (the co-op) or not be in,” Novak said.

Morse Supervisor Len Cersine announced that the township is planning to move forward on broadband alone. “We are going to try and run some broadband into the township, because right now we have nothing, absolutely nothing,” he said.

“The whole feasibility study was completed to lay out the best way to put broadband in,” Novak said.

“They have it running from Babbitt to Ely,” Berrini said, “but it doesn’t go to anybody’s house.”

Novak clarified that the project Berrini was referring to was the defunct Lake Connections plan that ran out of funding several years ago. “This is a totally different project,” he said.

“So is ours,” Berrini shot back. “We have six different poles. We put in for a grant. It will cost about $36,000 per pole, and they cover something like two miles. We can make a circle completely around Ely with ours.”

Novak pushed for a confirmation that Morse Township is going with their own broadband plan.

“We’re going to check on it. We’ll see what happens. We can’t wait. We can’t just have one part and the rest get nothing,” Berrini said.

Cersine said the “high-speed” internet project under consideration by Morse officials is through Frontier Communications.

“I wouldn’t put any faith in Frontier,” Novak said.

Cersine asserted, “Chuck, we are not abandoning your project, but we are checking on what we can do.”

Catching up with broadband projects in Aitkin MN: Hotspots that have encouraged private investment in FTTH, landing page, training

Today we’re in Aitkin 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…

We learned that when people don’t have broadband, that’s all they want to talk about. The broadband expansions in the area have made a huge difference. This was an area that lacked access so effort has been spent on increasing access with hotspots in the library, buses, for checkout and in community centers. It’s been nice to se private investment follow the interest in the hotspots. There have also been efforts, such as remote training and a landing page that encourage use.

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

Local libraries “check out” broadband in Cook and Chisholm

Reposted with permission from the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation‘s newsletter The Ranger…

The Cook and Chisholm public libraries are offering personal portable hotspot devices that may be checked out just like a book thanks to the Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) program. These hotspots can connect up to 10 devices to the internet at 4G speed enabling homes and people in rural areas to have high speed internet access where it is not yet available.

The Cook Library launched the hotspot program in December and its five devices have been checked out 39 times in three months. Each hotspot may be checked out for seven days at a time.

“Cook and the surrounding area do not yet have expansive broadband capability so these devices are very helpful to our local citizens and families,” said Crystal Phillips, Cook Library Director. “The device has a touch screen, is very user friendly and connects to the library’s Wi-Fi network so data usage is not limited.”

The Chisholm Library acquired 10 hotspots that have been checked out 58 times combined since December. “They are in such high demand that we are considering adding 10 to 20 more hotspots to our inventory,” said Katie Christenson, Chisholm Library supervisor. “The broadband

grant has made a big impact in our community.”

In addition, WiFi capacity at the Chisholm Library was upgraded to make the library itself a hotspot that is open to the public with four access points within a specific physical range. An average of 65 devices per day (or 2,000 devices per month) are connecting to the WiFi when the user is physically inside the library or parked nearby within range.

The BBC program was supported in part by a grant from Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation and involves an intensive two-year partnership between Blandin and area communities to advance broadband initiatives. This ongoing effort helps northeastern Minnesota rural communities develop high speed internet that is critical to economic development, education, healthcare and quality of life.


Great broadband digital inclusion project ideas from Minnesota

The Blandin Foundation works with communities to help them better use better broadband. They’ve been doing it for years and sometimes I get lucky enough to be a part of the projects. Each community works with a community broadband coach (Bill Coleman – another consultant on the Blandin Broadband Team); he helps them figure out their community priorities and where broadband fits in.

Then each community submits broadband proposals (to the community team, then Blandin) for potential funding. These projects are well thought out, vetted and most are well executed. (As my kids say – sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. Sometimes the projects are good learning opportunities and those lessons get shared.)

Today I’m pleased to share a matrix of the most recent projects. It’s a great list of ideas you could try in your own community. I suspect the layout of the projects will not be perfect – you can get a nicer, printable version too.)

Also – it’s a gentle reminder that Blandin is looking for future communities – deadline is May 31, 2018. (You can learn a lot more about the program in this archive of a recent webinar on it.)

 Community Project Owner Project Name Project Description
Aitkin County Aitkin County Aitkin County Community Calendar Create a county-wide landing page for events sponsored by Aitkin County Chambers, Schools and other organizations.
Aitkin County Aitkin County Community Conference Centers Provide three small communities with conference/meeting suites, including a mobile computer lab, smart boards, other digital equipment, and Wi-Fi hotspots for use by residents, community education and others.
Aitkin County Aitkin County Wi-Fi Network for Small Cities Provide Wi-Fi for the central hub of Palisade to attract commercial growth, promote connectivity, enhance education, and promote telehealth. This project will serve as a pilot for Wi-Fi networks in other small cities.
Aitkin County Aitkin County Wi-Fi at Berglund Park Provide Wi-Fi at the Palisade city park campground – a main entry point for the Northwoods ATV Trail and important source of economic activity. Park usage is anticipated to increase with Wi-Fi availability.
Aitkin County East Central Regional Library Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspots The East Central Regional Library will obtain 14 mobile hotspots and make them available to patrons at the Aitkin Library and other outreach locations in Aitkin County, providing internet access to county residents who don’t have broadband.
Aitkin County ISD 1 Aitkin Public Schools Wi-Fi Enabled Buses Install Wi-Fi on four school buses so students will be able to work on homework while traveling to and from home, and on longer trips.
Aitkin County Long Lake Conservation Center Wi-Fi and Increased Bandwidth at Long Lake Conservation Center Increase the Internet bandwidth to the LLCC campus, and improve the Wi-Fi network. This will improve working conditions for the staff, increase the effectiveness of programming offered, and make the center a more desirable event venue.
Chisholm Chisholm Community Education Community Training Sessions Training sessions on internet use (social media, security, Facebook) to be offered free of charge to the community. CHS students will be on hand to help class participants as they utilize the training.
Chisholm Chisholm EDA Community Website/Portal Develop a community portal and calendar for community information and events, including marketing, tourism, school events, city and chamber.
Chisholm Chisholm EDA Community Hot Spots Provide Wi-Fi hotspots at the Chisholm Public Library, Lake Street Pocket Park, Balkan Community Center, and HRA Apartment Complex.
Chisholm Chisholm EDA The “Business Perks” Building Develop a technology center with rental space/incubator space available for businesses. Broadband/Internet/website/social media training opportunities for businesses will be offered.
Chisholm Chisholm Public Library Hot Spot Check-Out System Provide fifteen hotspots with mobile data plans for check out at the Chisholm Public Library.
Chisholm ISD 695 Chisholm Public Schools Wi-Fi on Buses Install Wi-Fi on two school buses, allowing students taking longer bus trips to have access to the internet. Bus Wi-Fi may be used for community events as well.
Chisholm Minnesota Discovery Center Minnesota Discovery Center Broadband Connection Upgrade Wi-Fi throughout the Minnesota Discovery Center, allowing for better access during meetings, for events, and for patron/staff use.
Chisholm / Hibbing / Mt. Iron-Buhl Chisholm EDA Central Range Area Feasibility Study Hire a consultant to conduct a feasibility study to better understand options for improving broadband infrastructure and services within the designated area, present the resulting plan and funding options to city councils, townships, school boards and the St. Louis County Board, and assist with grant writing as requested.
Ely City of Ely – Ely EDA Homegrown Ely Website ( Create a website to showcase Ely to prospective residents, businesses, and visitors. The site will include information on the cost of living, the arts, restaurants, churches, business opportunities, infrastructure, etc.
Ely Entrepreneur Fund Digital Marketing for Small Businesses Engage seven small business owners (selected through an application process) in hands-on consulting to build brand awareness and increase revenue by developing and implementing affordable website and social media strategies.
Ely Incredible Ely Ely Technology Center Utilize current space in the downtown business district to provide a shared office space with high-speed Internet for local telecommuters, entrepreneurs, and visitors.
Ely Entrepreneur Fund Ely Small Business Workshop Series Provide three structured workshops on timely topics for small business owners. Local facilitators will share practical tools and ideas on topics such as digital marketing, employee recruitment, and QuickBooks.
Ely City of Ely Ely Area Broadband Feasibility Study Conduct a feasibility study that will provide factual information about market demand, technology alternatives, deployment and maintenance costs, network operation and marketing. It will include installation of fiber within the City of Ely, and extending throughout the entire school district area. Project partners will use the data generated to develop a plan for service delivery.
Ely Incredible Ely Business Development/Broadband Survey Conduct a survey on business development and internet usage data as well as projected broadband usage information, with the goal of bringing broadband to Ely and making it an economic success.

(Bois Forte, Cook, Orr)

Bois Forte Band of Chippewa Indians Business Training and Community Education Design and provide community technology education programs at Bois Forte, Orr Center, Cook Library and Community Center, and North Woods High School. Topics will be determined based on community feedback.




Getting Broadband for Palisade MN

I want to thank Darrell in Aitkin County for writing up his experience getting community WiFI set up in Palisade and for Scott from SCI for sharing some added info. It’s a nice example of public-private partnership at a very local level.

The problem:

Palisade is a rural community with few options for high-speed connectivity.  The only wired internet connection is via DSL through the local telephone provider.  Satellite is available but we have found it has the propensity to go disconnect due to weather situations and has limited bandwidth to support hot-spot activity.

The solution:

After much investigation, we found an existing solution.  Savage Communications Inc. (SCI) has fiber in place near the downtown area.  After several conversations with them, we were able to negotiate the construction project to bring fiber to the City Hall.

One of the considerations was that the community of Palisade wasn’t going to provide free internet or go into business of offering internet to the downtown area businesses.

There were scheduling issues to begin with as SCI was working other larger project in the county.  By October 2017, the fiber was connected and that portion of the Wi-Fi hotspot project was complete and the rest of the process could proceed.

Talk about great connectivity, the speed for upload and download is slated at 100 Mbps.  Now the Wi-Fi hotspot and community reading room are ready for the next phases of their respective projects.

SCI currently has fiber to the business available in Palisade and they plan to have residential services available by the end of 2018. (This is a privately funded project for SCI.)

Broadband Efforts in Orr, Cook and Bois Fotre Band – digital inclusion classes, broadband upgrade and new equipment

This month I am traveling with the Blandin crew to visit various Iron Range Broadband Communities – communities that have been making a concerted effort to improve broadband access in their area. We rounded out our trip to day with the Grizzlies – aka the communities of Orr, Cook and Bois Forte Band.

Here’s the presentation:

Notes (these notes are rough because they mirror the PPT – I tried to add points of the conversation that might be helpful to other communities):

Grizzlies Classes

  • A wide range but for the community and in the school.
  • Classes went well. We were surprised at which ones really took off. QuickBooks, iPad/iPhone and Basic Windows were a popular classes. Less popular classes were: email accounts, buying and selling and computer protection. Other classes that didn’t work out well – social media, bring your device, web design and online employment opportunities.

How were classes advertised?

  • Local papers
  • Via social media
  • Weekend training
  • Provide 1 on 1 training for Quickbooks for business owners
  • Have second training on hand for more than 5 attendees
  • Incentive such as purchasing software for Quickbooks for business owners.

Lessons Learned:

  • Don’t schedule of football/volleyball…
  • Advertise more effectively
  • Never schedule a class on Thanksgiving
  • You’re not going to make everyone happy
  • Trainers were terrific


IN Library – WiFi hotspots in library – they have 5 with 24 checkouts. Mostly folks from townships are checking them out. People are amazed at the opportunity and how fast they are. They have questions about cost (there is none for patrons). There’s a 7-day checkout period and people have been pretty good about getting it back. The supply and demand are well matched now.

At Orr Center – Switches for internet connectivity, TV and rolling cart and 5 laptops.

Telecom/Broadband Update

  • All new fiber was dropped from Cook to several areas (along highways) (used CAF 2 from CenturyLink)
  • New fiber into the reservation – VBSL drops by summer. So anyone within miles of the highway will get DSL (speeds dependent on distance)
  • They are building based on population density.
  • T-mobile is installing equipment in towers (then going through NESC) – hope to be a cheaper options. Verizon is part of some conversations.

We should require  broadband providers to look for existing fiber before they build out with public funding.  A provider recently overbuilt a network using CAF 2 funding – if they had used existing infrastructure they could be offering FTTH instead of DSL to community members.

Cell access to shaky in Orr.

We might be looking at wifi on the buses in the future.

And video:

Ely MN Broadband Efforts – Feasibility study, community portal and helping local businesses do online marketing

This month I am traveling with the Blandin crew to visit various Iron Range Broadband Communities – communities that have been making a concerted effort to improve broadband access in their area. Here are some of the highlights from Ely…

Feasibility Study – still in process with Design Nine. We’ve had some pole ownership issues and we have some pre-engineering work done. We’re looking at wireless in remote areas, such as YMCA camp. Now – how do we go from study to doing? We will be meeting with Frontier soon. The Timber Jay New had an article on the provider lately – that helped start a conversation.

PCs for People – distributed 50 PCs to families. Everyone loved them. No problem solving was involved. The project has helped the school talk about using more technology. It’s making parents happy. We selected the families not only by first come, first serve so that folks with perceived needs had a greater opportunity. We still have more folks who could use a PC. We are looking at bringing computers to older folks. In fact we’ve had school kids working with seniors to help them get on Facebook, email and use other tools that keep them engaged. The PCs for People folks are really nice.

We’ve got money from the Northland Foundation to continue on with the high schoolers working with seniors.

Ely Portal – for tourism and recruitment. Includes videos with Ely community members. We’re hoping to be done March 1. We won’t be doing a community calendar because we already have several in the area. Mission is to recruit people to visit as tourists, as new community members and drawing from retired community.

Tech Center – newest project. There is a site established. Space has been donated by a local law firm. We have local hardware and software experts – to help us get started. There’s a committee and we’re starting this like a business. Hope to open April 1. There is fiber to the building – but it’s 15 years old. We have a new Executive Director at Incredible Ely.

Helping Local Business Better Use technology – funding for 7 businesses; got 31 applications. Created a website for online applications. Half the people who visited the site went to apply. Hoping to grow revenue through

Businesses in the area spend about $1400/month on digital marketing. That’s more than other areas so we could help get them smarter. Each business will get about 20 hours or consulting.

E-marketing training changed this Hibbing business completely

Broadband can help businesses but two things need to happen. First, you have to have adequate broadband. Two, you have to know what to do with it. I spend more time talking about getting broadband here, but I enjoy the stories of using it too.

The Hibbing Daily Tribune recent posted a story of seven businesses in Hibbing that received digital marketing…

Businesses were selected through a contest. In addition to Cobb Cook Grocery, small business assisted in round one included: Range Steel Fabricators, Pink Tie Design, Andy’s Auto Sales, Benders Shoes, Range Floral and Sunrise Bakery.

All combined, the businesses received $20,500 worth of consulting hours, according to Lory Fedo, president of the Chamber and co-chair of the Hibbing Broadband Steering Committee.

“Consultant Molly Solberg did an incredible job providing about 20 hours of time to each business, training them to bring their technology to the next level,” said Fedo. “Our goal was not to do the upgrade for them, but to teach them how to do it themselves so that they can continue to improve and grow after Molly is done.”

Andy Koschak of Andy’s Auto Sales said the training changed his business completely.

The project was part of the Iron Range Broadband Community project…

The consulting was a broadband project funded through the Blandin Foundation and the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources, according to the Hibbing Area Chamber of Commerce. Early December marked the completion of round one of the customized small business digital marketing consulting.

As one of six Iron Range Broadband Communities, Hibbing leaders have completed a process to identify the community’s top technology priorities and create projects to address them.

The Hibbing Broadband Steering Committee submitted these customized consulting and several other projects for funding in 2017.

Check out the Internet to bring home at Hibbing and Chisholm libraries

Fun news from the Hibbing Daily Tribune

The Hibbing and Chisholm public libraries recently broadened their capabilities offerings by adding Internet resources for patrons, thanks to a broadband grant [from the Blandin Foundation].

Hibbing Public Library received 20 wireless hot spots and a year of data for the devices this week through funds from the Blandin Foundation in cooperation with Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation (IRRRB), St. Louis County, Hibbing Area Chamber of Commerce, Congressman Rick Nolan’s office and library staff.

The project has a value of nearly $10,000, according to a press release.

The goal is to close the digital divide on the Iron Range…

“The wireless hot spots are intended to decrease the digital divide in Hibbing between those who have access to Internet and those who do not,” said Lory Fedo, president of the Hibbing Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of the Hibbing Broadband Steering Committee.

She noted the devices will be available for checkout around Jan. 1, 2018, and can be used to access the internet anywhere Sprint wireless service is provided.

Putting mobile Internet devices into the hands of those who don’t have access has been identified as one of the community’s top technology priorities. This was determined through a process by the Hibbing Broadband Steering Committee and projects were created to address those priorities.