Broadband Communities

NOV-DEC 2017

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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26 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT a buzz about the community and will lead techies and future techies to consider Bemidji when they look to relocate. Paul Bunyan has seen an increase in intern applications since hosting the event. • At BSU, 15 to 18 percent of credits are generated online, and most classes have some online component. Not being place bound is valuable. Students can attend class from home, the school connects directly with the tribal college for collaboration, and the school can offer custom classes (such as graduate coursework for teachers) to multiple locations. is reduces costs for the school and the students. In surveys, students have ranked online classes tops for interaction. An emphasis for BSU in the future is international recruiting. e university does about 90 percent of this recruiting without leaving the country. Broadband allows communication with recruits and in turn allows new students to stay connected to home as they transition to school. CROW WING COUNTY In 1999, the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce and the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corporation (BLAEDC) held a leadership conference for local community leaders. ey looked at the challenges of their internet capacity and decided they needed more bandwidth. At about the same time, another group of county and town leaders focused on the need for broadband for the schools came to the same conclusion. In 2001, the school system levied for funding for schools and technology. It worked with local telephone provider Consolidated Telecommunications Company (CTC) on a plan to extend broadband to the rest of the community. As CTC deployed fiber, it laid strands for the schools and strands for general use. e schools worked to get public entities connected, and CTC worked to connect private companies. at effort built a bedrock for better broadband, and the effort is ongoing. e county received support through stimulus grants and Minnesota Border- to-Border grants to deploy fiber to the outskirts of the county. Getting broadband is only half of the job. Project partners (the school district, chamber and BLAEDC) focused on getting their constituents to use broadband, especially on business improvements with broadband. In 2016, Brainerd got funding from the Blandin Foundation to work on a Tech Talent Recruiter program to help build local technology skills and promote Brainerd as a tech-ready community. Crow Wing County also received Blandin Foundation support through its partnership with the Resilient Region, which led to classes for local businesses, an effort to recruit tech companies to the area, and computers for youth at risk. Sheila Haverkamp, executive director of BLAEDC, explains the power of broadband: "For the last decade, our fiber optic network has been an important factor in helping startup companies grow and succeed here. And now we're getting noticed from others throughout the state." House prices are up, median income is up and Brainerd, the county seat of Crow Wing County, is getting noticed. We met with representatives from Crow Wing County at the Chamber BLAEDC location in a room sponsored by CTC that had $30,000 to $40,000 in technology and gigabit access at our fingertips. It's the same room where community members meet to learn how to better use technology. • e Chamber of Commerce offers online marketing classes for businesses. It tries to be specific and practical in the classes, which serve everyone from medical centers to resorts. One attendee who sells underwater cameras attributed $1 million to attending the class. • To replace jobs lost in paper mills, the community focused on "tech services" for people who use technology. It promoted the need for, training for and availability of tech services. Now, 20 tech services companies employ 1,000 people. ey all need broadband. • In 2014, the Governor's Fishing Opener was held in the Brainerd Lakes area. is was a big opportunity for a community to promote local tourism and hospitality. Crow Wing County was able to take full advantage of the opportunity with mobile hotspots Paul Bunyan Communications sponsors an annual gaming championship that boosts tourism.

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