Yesterday more than 160 economic developers, educators, providers, legislators, co-ops, and community leaders came together to tackle the tough issues related to Internet access and use. The day kicked off with an uplifting introduction by Blandin Foundation Director of Public Policy and Development Bernadine Joselyn.
“Look around the room. Do you get a sense of the power of what we can do together that we can’t do alone? That is what today is all about, to get better at working together to harness the power of broadband for a more prosperous Minnesota with opportunity for all,” said Joselyn.
Here’s a quick rundown of the day:
- The conference started with a panel on developments in federal broadband policy. To learn more about the Connect America Fund, E-Rate Program and USDA loans, see the Blandin on Broadband blog.
- Then students from Fond du Lac Ojibwe School, Lac qui Parle Valley High School and Two Harbors High School spoke about how young people can be engaged in community broadband initiatives.
- Breakout sessions commenced and conference attendees divided to learn about broadband-based economic development, lessons learned from Blandin Broadband Community leaders, and how libraries and technology centers are places of access and innovation.
- The second round of breakout sessions included how education initiatives and innovations impact broadband deployment and use, how to make public-private partnerships work, and how to message effectively when talking about broadband in your community (slides coming soon).
- The day wrapped with a panel of state policy makes and doers previewing highlights of what’s coming and an enthusiastic exploration into the future of broadband and more by Dr. M. James Bensen.
The big news for Blandin Foundation came during the noon hour when 10 new Blandin Broadband communities were named. These communities will enter into two-year partnerships with the Foundation that will provide planning, technical and financial support to help meet each community’s digital technology goals. The new communities are:
- Carlton County
- Central Woodlands (east central Minnesota)
- Resilient Region 5 (north central Minnesota)
- Sherburne County
- Chisago County
- Redwood County
- Renville/Sibley Counties
- Red Wing
- Nobles County
- Martin County
“At Blandin Foundation we recognize that broadband access – and the skills to use it – are essential to expanding opportunity for all. Communities have told us this for over 12 years and it is the foremost reason why we’ve renewed our commitment to broadband,” said Joselyn. “Thanks to community leaders across the state, Minnesota is making important strides toward ensuring that rural places and the economically and socially disadvantaged are not left behind. That momentum can’t stop.”