|6/18/2020 2:23:00 PM|
Broadband enhancement efforts underway
A group of Chisago Lakes area community boosters are taking another shot at improving local Internet broadband service.
The Chisago Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a Zoom gathering June 11 on-line to talk about a $75,0000 Blandin Foundation broadband enhancement award.
If this sounds familiar to longtime readers, it should.
This latest grant breathes new life into efforts happening locally since 2014-- when the first Blandin Foundation broadband program funds came to the county, and were utilized in pursuit of high capacity, high speed Internet.
Chisago Lakes Chamber needs 50 to 60 people to get active in this new grant activity. The hope is to hear from a wide variety of people affected by poor Internet services here...insights are sought from those in healthcare, educators, for profit, non-profit and rural and urban voices.
The vision for using the $75,000 will be crafted during an Internet session on Zoom tomorrow, Friday June 19. The meeting is from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The Chisago Lakes Chamber has the Zoom meeting number and passcode you need to participate. Call 257-1177 as soon as possible to get details to be able to sign into the meeting.
A familiar face will be leading the chamber/ Blandin program, Bill Coleman.
He’s been organizing and coordinating Internet advocacy for years. He was part of the ABC (America’s Best Communities) competition involving the five cities in Chisago Lakes about four years ago; which also espoused broadband improvement goals. The group that sprung from ABC--the Chisago Lakes Initiative--actually applied for the $75,000.
Coleman said the mission for the June 19 meeting will create a broadband needs list, probably assign some grassroots tasks, look at data and prepare for the “Brainstorming” phase of the grant scheduled for June 24-- also on-line via Zoom.
Chisago Lakes will have about 18 months to use the $75,000 in two rounds of funding. Certainly, in the overall scheme of things, $75,000 is not a massive amount of money, Coleman remarked, adding, “We think there will be a million dollars of value for your community.”
Nancy Hoffman, Chisago County HRA/EDA director, observed that Blandin has been with the county since the start. “The foundation was pulling everybody together to advocate with one voice,” she said, when it was apparent equitable Internet service provision was going to require public involvement.
And, there have been successes.
Sunrise, Nessel and Fish Lake townships attracted broadband providers who installed fiber optic equipment into areas where, due to population density, Internet probably would have stayed basic for decades.
Hoffman said there is still work being done applying for state “Border to Border” broadband money for Franconia and Chisago Lake Townships for 2021. The townships held meetings and did surveys, etc. and lost out on the last round of Minnesota broadband aid.
Hoffman noted, the involvement and energy of more potential private customers and commercial accounts through this chamber effort will demonstrate the community really wants this and can only help everyone’s chances of success.
According to a release from Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office 144,000 households in Minnesota are missing out on broadband speed, capacity and reliability with substandard or no services available.
Especially with schools closed for the covid-19 pandemic, Sen. Klobuchar said the stories coming into her office about distance learning Internet shortcomings were impactful. “It’s not right that parents in rural parts of our state have to drive to restaurants and coffee shops so their kids can do homework,” she says.
The Chisago County survey done in 2015 revealed 35 percent of several hundred respondents would telecommute for work and 31 percent would start a business at home with decent Internet.