This past week our Director of Partnerships and Programming, Madeline, attended the Border to Border Broadband Conference in Brainerd, MN. The annual conference, hosted by the Blandin Foundation, focuses on ensuring that all Minnesotans, no matter their geographical location, have access to high-speed, reliable broadband internet. The conference focused on the approaches rural MN communities are taking to ensure their residents and businesses are able to thrive with the assistance of broadband.

We heard from a range of individuals with a stake in broadband adoption, including elected county officials, local internet providers, and local business owners, each providing their input through varying lenses of impact. Topics discussed ranged from expanding the impact broadband can have, such as increasing the ability of businesses to grow and succeed, student success, and community population strength; to hearing from past funding recipients on how to leverage investments to bridge the digital divide.

In addition to hearing from others, Madeline presented on the Digital Inclusion “Speed Dating” panel on behalf of PCs for People. Madeline presented alongside of representatives for the Cook Public Library, Winona Friendship Center, and Project Fine, in which digital inclusion for low-income individuals, senior citizens, students, and immigrants was highlighted. This panel ensured that affordability and access for all were topics that stayed in the forefront of attendees’ minds. Community’s requirement of broadband to stay thriving in the present day is extremely important, but we need to ensure that it is accessible for all of the residents and not just those who can afford it, or know how to use it to its fullest capabilities.

The conference also served as the setting in which the upcoming round of Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) were announced. “The Blandin Broadband Communities program is an intensive, two-year partnership between rural Minnesota communities (cities, counties, tribes, or other self-identified communities of interest or place) and the foundation. Selected communities work through a proven process to define their technology goals, measure current levels of broadband access and use, and seek technical assistance and resources to meet their goals.” The new communities include Cannon Falls (school district), Koochiching Technology Initiative, Rock County, Swift County, East Range Joint Powers, Laurentian Chamber of Commerce, Tower Economic Development Authority, and Iron Range Tourism Bureau. PCs for People will have a close relationship with each chosen community as we plan a distribution event of 50 desktop computers to community residents and institutions.

PCs for People is grateful for the longstanding partnership with the Blandin Foundation and look forward to our continued work together in addressing the Digital Divide.