Blandin Foundation extends its commitment to rural broadband

Schools use broadband technology to link students to learning opportunities via telepresence

During their spring meeting March 20 and 21, Blandin Foundation trustees voted to extend the organization’s decade of work in rural broadband another two years (through 2016) and allocate $1.5 million more for community broadband grants.

“We see every day what local leaders can do to address very significant and complex challenges,” said Dr. Kathleen Annette, CEO and president of Blandin Foundation. “When it comes to broadband, our role is on the people side of the equation, working with community leaders as they plan for their community’s access to — and use of — high-speed Internet so critical work and life today. Broadband clearly has become the indispensable infrastructure of our time, and rural communities must be part of that picture.”

Since making rural broadband use and access a focus in 2003, Blandin Foundation has invested $9.8 million and partnered with leaders in more than 60 communities and 80 organizations across rural Minnesota on various projects. Highlights of this work include:

  • Designing and administering the groundbreaking, federally supported Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities initiative that harnessed the creativity of a wide range of statewide partners, drove deep into rural Minnesota communities significant resources, and created models for community development of broadband use.
  • Raising for policymakers and other decision-makers the fact that infrastructure alone — absent targeted efforts at reducing the digital divide and promoting broadband adoption and use — fails to fully deliver the benefits that broadband promises.
  • Standing with and providing millions of dollars in resources to rural Minnesota communities as they design and claim futures that include robust access to, and sophisticated use of, high-speed Internet.
  • Forging relationships that have helped pave the way for leadership on rural broadband across the state and fueling national action around rural broadband access and use.

With the decision to extend the Blandin Community Broadband Program, the Foundation continues to offer convening and technical support through 2016. The Foundation provides matching grants of  $10,000 to $50,000 (up to $750,000 each year) for rural Minnesota communities to conduct broadband feasibility studies, deploy advanced broadband applications, increase computer ownership and broadband adoption among low-income populations, and implement projects that support a culture of broadband use.

Stories and detail are available here.