January 22, 2015 at 1:39 p.m.
Companies of all types need access to broadband for enhanced uploading of large files, for offering credit card transactions and lots more, said Chisago County HRA/EDA Director Nancy Hoffman.
The county’s Economic Development Authority has begun its work on the broadband issue, in partnership with the Blandin Foundation. Blandin announced its selections for broadband community partners in November.
Next Wednesday there will be a meeting of the Chisago County Broadband Steering Committee-- which has been pulled together over the last few weeks by Hoffman.
She has also been learning about services Blandin has to offer, and said she is looking forward to bringing broadband to where it’s most needed and providing it in a fair way across geographical boundaries, working with Chisago County community leaders.
The general public will be brought into the process probably in February or March through community meetings, Hoffman said.
The applications to be included in a sustainable broadband project will be made available later this year.
The first steering committee meeting is the one scheduled for January 28.
Blandin Foundation is calling this outreach/funding program “Border to Border Broadband: No Community Left Behind.”
Bill Coleman, overheard in a webinar the first week of January, explained that there’s a lot of prep-work to identify needs and then attract broadband providers.
Coleman warned, that “...the unprepared will see funding flowing to better-prepared neighbors.”
Blandin Foundation staff are working with Chisago County and other selected communities (18 total) to provide planning, technical and financial support to design and drive initiatives to position their communities for greater success, according to a Blandin press release.
Hoffman explained this starts with the local steering committee finding consensus to prioritize focus areas for broadband-- be it healthcare, education, industrial parks, etc. The group will organize as fairly as possible geographically, in promoting Internet access enhancement, she added.
Chisago County has areas that present challenges in making optimum broadband accessible, (see maps.)
The steering committee is going to help coordinate future broadband users’ needs, and “help drive demand” to attract providers of broadband services, Hoffman said. It isn’t mean to consist of people who work in the technology or provide infrastructure.
According to “Connect Minnesota” Chisago County has at least five providers of broadband; but in some areas only one or none are actually operating. Laying fiber can cost thousands of dollars per mile. Coleman explained, in his webinar talk, that “...aggregation of demand results in better pricing and stimulates investment.”
Hoffman said the funding and expertise that Chisago County receives in this two-year effort from Blandin Foundation, will help facilitate involvement by interested volunteers who-- for example, may not be able to pay a fee for a conference, and will cover the mundane expenses of holding meetings.
Blandin’s focus on broadband access and inequality of access began in 2003 and this phase of community-led partnership is planned to run into 2017.