Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Information Systems Director Keith Modglin joined more than 150 broadband leaders from across rural Minnesota last month to compare approaches to expanding access to, and use of, high-speed Internet. The Border to Border Broadband: Bridging the Gaps – Expanding the Impact conference, co-hosted by Blandin Foundation and the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development, highlighted the many ways broadband is creating new opportunities for rural communities.
Research unveiled at the conference found that Minnesota could see nearly $1 billion in economic benefits over 15 years if broadband access and use improved. Tech expert Robert Gallardo, assistant director at the Purdue Center for Regional Development, produced profiles of all Minnesota counties using his Digital Divide Index.
As leaders in rural broadband work, Modglin and the Mille Lacs Band were central to the conference sharing and learning. A past Blandin Broadband Community, Mille Lacs Band leaders have invested in projects such as building wi-fi sites in three districts and providing computers and training to 100 low-income families.
Communities are starting to see the direct economic impact of broadband investments like those on Mille Lacs Reservation. Blandin Foundation-commissioned research released at the conference analyzed these impacts in five rural Minnesota communities. Findings indicate that economic benefits in each community will surpass public broadband investment in one to six years. Information and resources on how these counties are making the most of their broadband investments can be found at www.mnbroadbandcasestudies.org.
All the conference proceedings, including the county-by-county Digital Divide Index for Minnesota, are online at www.blandinonbroadband.org.
“Mille Lacs Band leaders have a lot to be proud of,” said Dr. Kathleen Annette, president and CEO of Blandin Foundation. “Local leaders are creating a broadband-enhanced future themselves when others wouldn’t do it for them. Their vision will propel the community forward!”