Over the past two years, the East Range Joint Powers Board has been on a journey as a Blandin Broadband Community to foster stronger high-speed internet connectivity in Aurora, Biwabik, Hoyt Lakes, and the Town of White. In its role as the East Range’s contracted consultants, Northspan has helped guide this process through a series of community meetings and the launch of a feasibility study process that will lay the foundation for future applications for broadband funding. But when it comes to community excitement, a series of small-scale, local projects has helped expand connectivity and shown people the value of broadband.
Through an open grant process, East Range applicants have leveraged nearly $75,000 in Blandin Foundation match dollars to fund over $107,000 worth of projects on the East Range. The 16 approved projects include funding for equipment for local police, fire, and EMS departments, wifi expansions in public areas in each community, and technology upgrades for the Ranger Snowmobile and ATV Club. Local libraries have been beneficiaries, as Hoyt Lakes’s created a portable training lab and several virtual STEM kits for circulation. The ERJPB used funding to develop a website for the organization that includes a calendar, conducted 28 business visits to gather information on business operations and broadband needs, and partnered with the Northland Small Business Development Center to provide technology audits and funding opportunities to 10 businesses.
The Mesabi East School District also made several applications to support technology in the school and wifi on four school buses used for longer trips so that students can complete their homework on their way to sporting events or other distant activities. Additionally, the Blandin Broadband Communities program provided 75 free computers to the East Range through the PCs for People program. Several computers were allocated to the Aurora and Hoyt Lakes libraries and businesses in need, and the rest were donated to families in the Mesabi East School District who are on free or reduced lunch.
Northspan is proud of the work done to expand broadband access on the East Range and will continue to guide the community as through the feasibility study process. We thank the Blandin Foundation and IRRR for their generous support that makes these projects possible.
Visit http://erjpb.com/broadband/ or contact Karl Schuettler at firstname.lastname@example.org or Amanda Vuicich at email@example.com for more information on Northspan’s work on the East Range and with broadband.