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CTEP Members Reflect on Addressing Urban and Rural Digital Inequities

November 1, 2018

By: Katie Ward and Gus Leinbach, CTEP AmeriCorps Members

Last week we were able to attend the Blandin Foundation’s Border to Border Broadband conference just outside of Brainerd, MN. Our primary purpose in attending was to assist in livestreaming the event, but we were also there to represent the Community Technology Empowerment Project (CTEP) and speak on a panel about digital inclusion efforts throughout Minnesota.

While most attendees were from rural communities, we found that all of us were addressing similar issues related to access and lack of computer skills. We were thankful for the opportunity to learn more about the range of projects aimed at addressing digital needs across the state, as well as for the chance to share about some of the unique challenges faced by rural and urban communities.

Through our time spent livestreaming the conference and networking with other attendees, we learned:

  1. Broadband access requires partnerships of all kinds--local, county, state, and at times national.
     
  2. Communities cannot build a network and expect people to come. They must talk to stakeholders before building to ensure the interest is there and educate residents about how to use new technologies.
     
  3. Digital literacy must be embedded throughout the network building process. A network is of no use if subscribers do not know how to use it.
     
  4. While some issues in the urban arena are quite different from rural issues, there are more shared problems than one would expect. One person was shocked to learn that broadband speeds (25mb upload and 3mb download) were not available to everyone in the Twin Cities.
  1. Digital literacy and broadband access isn’t easy work, but it can be incredibly rewarding!

There is still much work to be done to address broadband access across the state of Minnesota (in both rural and urban areas). One thing you can do to help is take this internet speed test, so the Minnesota Office of Broadband can learn more about the internet consumer experience across the state.

A big shoutout to one of our program directors, Lisa Peterson-de La Cueva, for giving the keynote address on prioritizing digital equity.

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