In a visit to northern Minnesota this week, Minnesota’s U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar said she understands the importance of broadband internet access for rural areas. She met with staff from the Blandin Foundation in Grand Rapids to discuss a federal grant that will help bring broadband to rural areas across the state, including Cook County.
Klobuchar said, "We went from third in the developed world, to fifteenth in just the last decade when it came to internet subscribership and internet speed. That just can't keep going that way," she added.
The $4.8 million federal grant, awarded to Blandin will not be used for laying wires or fiber, but to teach residents how to take advantage of high speed internet. The county will be eligible to apply for up to $100,000 in grant funding to design and execute local projects that will affect the larger goals of supporting education, healthcare, and the local economy.
Currently the Cook County Fiber Optic Network Commission is coordinating the project. As part of this process there will be discussions with Blandin and members of the community to identify the best way to achieve high-speed access for county residents.
According to commission member Danna MacKenzie, after a list of possible projects has been developed, the community will be asked to rank the items and provide feedback on the ideas. In addition, demonstration labs will be set up to apply approaches and options to the challenges unique to Cook County.