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New coalition applies for broadband stimulus funds

New coalition applies for broadband stimulus funds

$5 million would target broadband use in rural Minnesota communities

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. (September 2, 2009) – As part of Blandin Foundation’s continued commitment to strengthen communities in rural Minnesota, especially the Grand Rapids area, the Foundation has submitted an application for federal broadband stimulus funding on behalf of Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) – a coalition of state and county agencies, state colleges and universities, and others.

MIRC’s $5 million application was made to the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) for non-infrastructure programs, meaning funds would not be used to lay fiber. MIRC would work instead toward helping rural Minnesota communities make the most of the Internet.   

Total cost of the coalition’s proposed projects–grants to demonstration communities, training on ways broadband can be used in health care, education and economic development, training and technical assistance to small businesses, etc.–is estimated at more than $6.3 million. MIRC members would contribute $1.3 million in resources as match toward the effort.

“There is a significant–almost 20 percent–gap between rural and urban home broadband adoption rates,” said Bernadine Joselyn, director of public policy and engagement at Blandin Foundation. “MIRC’s goal is to help develop technologically and economically vital rural communities competing and thriving in a global economy increasingly based on high-speed internet.”

Since 2003, Blandin Foundation has operated a broadband initiative to spur the economic vitality of Minnesota’s rural communities.

“Our work with rural broadband, as well as that of our coalition partners, has illustrated that it is a critical component of economic vitality, but only if a critical mass of citizens, business and educators understand and apply broadband’s capabilities,” Joselyn said.  “The coalition’s work would help communities from Roseau to Rochester extend broadband’s capabilities and benefits to tens of thousands of Minnesotans.”

BTOP funds are available through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Grant awards are scheduled to be announced in December 2009.

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Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities members

Blandin Foundation

MN Learning Commons (Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, University of Minnesota, Minnesota Department of Education)

Minnesota Renewable Energy Marketplace

PCs for People

Regional Work Force Centers

Regional Development Commissions

U of M, Crookston

U of M Extension Center for Community Vitality


A full copy of the MIRC coalition’s application, submitted by applicant organization C. K. Blandin Foundation, can be found at the foundation’s broadband initiative web site: 

NTIA’s BTOP program




For additional information, contact:

Allison Rajala Ahcan, communications director 

218-326-0523 or cell 218-259-2893 

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