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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely Broadband Coalition looking for more grant projects

Keith Vandervort
Posted 10/31/18

ELY – The city of Ely and other partners in the Area Broadband Coalition gathered this week to brainstorm ideas to promote the use of high-speed fiber Internet as a tool for economic …

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Ely Broadband Coalition looking for more grant projects

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ELY – The city of Ely and other partners in the Area Broadband Coalition gathered this week to brainstorm ideas to promote the use of high-speed fiber Internet as a tool for economic development

Bill Coleman, a contractor for the Blandin Foundation, served as a community coach for about two-dozen elected officials and residents who met at Amici’s Event Center Tuesday night to begin a second round of seeking up to $50,000 in funding from the foundation and the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation.

The local coalition competed against five other communities for a $75,000 grant about 18 months ago to develop various broadband-related economic development projects. In addition, the Ely Area Broadband Coalition received a $25,000 grant to help fund a feasibility study for developing the infrastructure to provide broadband.

“With this new round of funding, you can either do more of what you have been doing, some new things, or a combination of both,” Coleman said. “Those in attendance here have a lot of influence on how these dollars are spent.”

He stressed that adding broadband to a community is not just about adding the infrastructure, but how to make the best possible use of the technology to improve a community.

Coleman stressed six criteria that are used to evaluate the development ideas highlighted in the grant applications. “As far as the grant funding, ideas must fit into one of these buckets,” he said. “Ideally, the more buckets your ideas fit in, the stronger they are.”

The categories include:

Broadband infrastructure - This is a marketing term defined as 25 mb download speed and three mb upload speed. The state goal for 2026 is 100 mb download and 20 mb upload speeds;

Knowledge workforce – In almost every industry, people have to be aware of how technology is used. Every field has a greater use of technology, and some are strictly based on the use of that;

Digital equality – Everyone will have a computer, know how to use it, plus have a connection to the Internet;

Innovation – Doing new things in new ways, or old things in different ways or better ways, and helping a community catch up to today’s technology;

Sustainability – This is economic development with the future in mind, including using resources in the best possible way with no waste;

Advocacy – Your community message in using economic development in attracting people and investment to the community.

Participants at the session divided into six groups to discuss the above topics and worked on developing ideas to be submitted for consideration. Project submissions will be agreed to and developed through the end of the year. The grant application is Jan. 4, 2019, with approval announced next spring. New projects will be implemented in 2019 and 2020.

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