Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities Project Bolsters Broadband Adoption

Posted in Broadband

A Hmong woman with no previous computer experience practicing her keyboarding skills with an online tutorial/game at Digital Inclusion for Refugees and Immigrants in Winona. Courtesy Project FINE.

In 2010, the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) project was born from a $4.8 million Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Eleven demonstration communities were invited to utilize grant funding to implement a number of broadband projects from 2010 to 2013. Communities collaborated with over 30 statewide partner organizations to maximize the resources allocated.

Bill Coleman, principal at Community Technology Advisors and lead MIRC consultant, said of the project, “MIRC combined the well-resourced efforts of statewide partners with highly motivated and empowered community teams to create an environment where success was expected and positive results achieved.”

Strong local leadership propelled MIRC projects forward at an astonishing rate.

“Communities stretched their allocation of $100,000 farther than we could have imagined.  Each dollar was treated as a precious asset with community leadership teams finding additional local resources to achieve high quality, low-cost results.  Collaboration across organizations was almost a pre-condition for funding so that every investment had multiple users and high ROI,” said Coleman.

MIRC was the first program to utilize the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) Indicators to measure broadband readiness and progress in rural communities. Overall, the 11 demonstration communities saw a 10% increase in the category of “Strong.”

ICF founder Robert Bell expressed his congratulations to the Minnesota communities for their hard work in a recent interview. He says, “We’re now in a zone where we can make a difference.”

Learn more about MIRC – resources for communities looking to expand broadband in their area, profiles of community projects, and reports and lessons learned.