It's time (again) to talk about broadbandNext Wednesday, community members will gather at Grand Superior Lodge, just north of Two Harbors, with broadband on the agenda.
By: LaReesa Sandretsky, Lake County News Chronicle
Next Wednesday, community members will gather at Grand Superior Lodge, just north of Two Harbors, with broadband on the agenda.
With broadband internet soon to be available in the entire county, community leaders have been looking for ways to educate the public and ensure the new service is used to its full potential. Lake County was named a Blandin Broadband Community in November 2012, one of nine selected across rural Minnesota. Since that time, the county has convened a leadership team and engaged the community in a two-year project to make the best use of information and services that broadband can deliver.
“I have just been overwhelmed by the amount of positive energy that people have brought to these meetings. It’s really inspirational,” said Angie Dickison Palmer, director of information systems for the county. Palmer applied for the Blandin designation and helped facilitate the meetings that defined the goals for the county.
After a communitywide public meeting and a few smaller meetings, three more specific goals for the county surfaced.
“Those that had the most interest and support floated to the top,” Palmer said. With those three goals in mind, the group applied for funding. They were recently awarded with over $40,000 as three separate grants: two to the school district and one to the county.
The county will create a YouTube channel with their $10,000 and produce videos to help educate folks on how they can use broadband. The district will use its first grant of $17,000 to train community members in using programs like Skype, Twitter and conferencing tools. Their second grant of $18,000 will be funneled into programs that will help community members use the new services for economic growth.
“The Blandin Foundation allows us to bring grant monies into our county that will help improve community vitality through programs that promote digital literacy and digital inclusion,” Palmer said.
Dr. Kathleen Annette, CEO of Blandin Foundation, said Lake County is the perfect recipient for the grant monies and the Blandin Broadband designation.
“Hopeful leaders make ambitious choices, and Lake County residents will benefit from this collaborative effort,” Annette said. “We’re excited by this work, and the vibrancy it will bring to the region.”
At the meeting next Wednesday, attendees will hear from John Bennett from the U of M Center for Community Vitality. He will discuss how the internet can revitalize local businesses and rural communities. He said his center works frequently with communities like Lake County to maximize business exposure and profitability using the internet.
“(The internet) is particularly helpful for people in Two Harbors and Silver Bay where there are a lot of travelers,” Bennett said.
There will also be an update on the countywide fiber installation and a discussion about the grants. The event goes from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Registration is $5 and is open until June 10. Call Dickison Palmer at 834-8392 for more information or register online at www.co.lake.mn.us.
The fiber optic network, which will be installed in three phases, is headed towards a busy summer of construction. Lake Connections, the Lake County-owned entity spearheading the installation of broadband across the county, has already taken bids to begin the third phase of the project. Work in phases one and two are progressing steadily, and the administration center in Two Harbors will be completely renovated by the end of July.
For more information on the project, visit www.lakeconnections.com.