Application submitted to become Blandin Broadband Community

Monday, June 04, 2018

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Swift County RDA submitted an application for Swift County to become one of four rural Minnesota communities to participate in the Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) Program. Selected through a competitive application process, winning communities will define their technology goals, receive planning and technical assistance and have access to resources to implement projects designed to make progress on their broadband and community technology enhancement goals. 

The Blandin Foundation has partnered with broadband champions in over 100 communities and organizations across the state Since making rural broadband access and use a primary focus in 2003. The result was to implement hundreds of community-based broadband projects with two core objectives in mind: sustainable broadband adoption and enriched quality of life and place.

Once selected, Blandin Broadband Community teams will receive planning and facilitation support, and the opportunity to apply for up to $75,000 in grants over the two-year period for locally developed projects that address community identified needs.

Since winning a Minnesota Border to Border broadband grant in 2015, which brought broadband to unserved areas of Swift County the RDA has known the County would need to take steps to promote adoption and digital inclusion.  Now that we have high speed internet throughout the County we are seeking best practices and ways to evaluate how we incorporate our broadband resources into smart solutions that everyone can access.  It could be basic things such as ensuring Wi-Fi is included in our public spaces, or convenience items like adding online options to make camping reservations at County parks, or a more comprehensive project to ensuring each student has a computer in their home, knows how to use it and has access to the broadband network. The BBC program could help us focus and get results for our communities.

One area the RDA is already pursuing is the enhancement of County and Community websites.  Some of our cities don’t have a web presence at all and from the outside looking in, prospective businesses and residents are surprised to learn we have broadband throughout the County.  The address this, the RDA has been working with its website developer to add “child” or enhanced partner site options to be able to share our web resources with other sites, in a streamlined manner. Funding will come from a portion of Swift County’s recent election of the One-Time Exception rule for state-seeded loan funds which allows communities to repay 20% of funds to the state and use the remaining 80% for economic development with no strings attached.

The goal is to share a web “gateway” where information like news, photos and events can be updated once and pushed out to other community sites as appropriate. This will allow communities to work together to update community information, quality of life content, and strengthen promotion of the whole county as a creative digital community without duplicating efforts.  

We are excited to be getting started with our pilot community page: City of Murdock and have begun to define the parameters of the site and work with partners to get updated contented like interactive mapping and drone fly-overs. In addition, almost all communities have a digital champion: someone who is social media savvy and already promoting their city as a place with a high quality of life and where many opportunities exist.  By identifying these ‘community champions’ and working with our partners, Swift County will be on its way to developing smart ways to utilize its broadband infrastructure to enhance business opportunities and the quality of life for our residents.  The application for the BBC program closed May 31st and chosen communities will be announced June 28th, with kick-off meetings and community benchmarking to begin in August.

Category: Grants Broadband Community Websites

Tags: Minnesota, Blandin, Broadband, Community, Murdock, Swift County, economic growth, information technology