GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. (October 30, 2013) – Thief River Falls, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Itasca County and many other rural Minnesota communities were featured Oct. 29 in testimony delivered by Blandin Foundation in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.
Entitled “Broadband Adoption: The Next Mile,” this hearing examined how to increase broadband use (adoption) in the United States; explore challenges to broadband adoption among various demographic groups and regions; and strategies to overcome those barriers.
“The stories continue to roll in from communities all across rural Minnesota, where broadband adoption is not just a policy imperative, but a community imperative,” said Bernadine Joselyn, Blandin Foundation’s director of public policy and engagement. “I bring you the voices and experiences of rural community leaders. These are the people who create vibrancy across the American landscape. They are hopeful people and they can make a little support go a very long way.”
Among the communities highlighted in her testimony, Joselyn described how Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe now provides temporary workers with training in online job search skills and expanded computer access. The city of Thief River Falls launched a collaboration between local broadband providers and a nonprofit to supply refurbished computers and support to low-income families. Akeley built a series of peer-led technology workshops. Winona created digital literacy training in Hmong and Spanish for recent immigrants. A consortium of school districts in Stevens County developed broadband-based distance learning services for students with disabilities. Itasca Area Schools Collaborative has built telepresence facilities that reduce the challenge of distance for students.
Blandin Foundation has worked with hundreds of rural Minnesota community leaders and dozens of statewide partners since 2003 to imagine and forge strategies for communities to access and put the power of high-speed Internet (broadband) to work for residents, especially small businesses and those challenged by unemployment and poverty.
“Blandin Foundation has made broadband adoption a priority because we believe that 1) broadband is the indispensable infrastructure of the 21st Century, and 2) rural communities need broadband access and the ability to use it, in order to thrive in this globalized economy,” said Joselyn.
Minnesota’s U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, a member of the subcommittee, issued a statement following the hearing. “As Minnesota continues to work to bring high-speed Internet to rural communities, we need to make sure that businesses, families and students can utilize these connections to help boost local economies and compete in a global marketplace,” she said. “Organizations like the Blandin Foundation are doing good work to get more communities online.”
Others testifying included Aaron Smith of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, David Cohen with Comcast Corporation, Sunne Wright McPeak of the nonprofit California Emerging Technology Fund and the Honorable John Sununu with the Broadband for America initiative.
“Blandin Foundation is all about Minnesotans imagining, leading and growing vibrant, resilient, rural communities,” said Dr. Kathleen Annette, CEO of Blandin Foundation. “It was our great honor to share with the senators, their staff and policy leaders across the nation efforts of people in rural Minnesota, who do the hard work of broadband adoption every day.”
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