The U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded $4.8 million in stimulus money to increase broadband use in rural Minnesota.
The Minnesota-based Blandin Foundation will coordinate with 19 agencies around the state to support sustained broadband use in business, government, education and health care.
Blandin President Jim Hoolihan says the initiative will create jobs and improve the quality of life in many rural communities.
"If a family or an individual or a business in Bemidji or Blackduck or Worthington doesn't have access today to high speed broadband, it doesn't have opportunities for competing for business for a vibrant community," Hoolihan said.
The list of initiative projects include providing e-commerce training to 2,000 rural small businesses, and developing broadband applications for schools and health care facilities.
Hoolihan says the stimulus money won't be used to build broadband infrastructure. Instead, the money will support communities and agencies in developing high-value uses for broadband technology.
"In the old days, strong economies might be about roads and bridges and railroad, and today, strong economies everywhere, and especially in rural Minnesota, is about digital access, access to high speed broadband," he said.
Initiative goals include training 2500 people in computer literacy and distributing 1,000 affordable computers to low income residents of rural areas.