A Regional Broadband Conference is being hosted for the East Central Minnesota community on Oct. 6 from 3-4:30 p.m. at the Braham Event Center in Braham Minnesota to address regional broadband challenges.

As it becomes increasingly necessary to rely on the internet to work from home, attend school, make telehealth appointments, keep ourselves entertained and visit with family, access to affordable, reliable internet service is imperative.

The East Central Regional Broadband Conference is open to the public and available in-person or virtually through video conferencing (via Zoom) on Oct. 6 at 3 p.m. The event is free, but registration is requested at https://bit.ly/3gFi9RY.

Fall desserts, ice cream and beverages will be served for those attending in person. If selecting the option to participate virtually, registered guests will receive the Zoom link for the event by 10 a.m. on the day of the event.

According to a regional broadband survey of 2,369 residents and businesses in East Central Minnesota, internet reliability and affordability are not sufficient for their families or businesses. In fact, in the heart of the region - Kanabec County ranks 87th out of 87 Minnesota counties when it comes to internet accessibility.

More than 1,000 comments were submitted through the survey that provide first-person accounts of how internet access and quality impact daily life for East Central Minnesotans.

Many have the same issues: cost, reliability, no access at all. Here are just a few of their remarks:

• My wife is a transplant patient with the U of M and we can’t video conference with her doctors because of how slow our internet is.

• Because of the pandemic, I have had need to upload lots of video for my job. I consistently have to go to a colleague’s home to use their internet because mine either takes overnight to upload or gets stuck and the upload will never complete.

• I am a doctor and have thought about moving out of the area due to the lack of reliable internet. It makes it nearly impossible to work at home. Internet in greater Minnesota should be as fast and reliable as for those who live in the metro areas.

• I am a mother with three children doing school online. During all of distance learning, I had to drop one of the kids off at my parent’s home so we would hopefully have enough internet for the other two kids. It meant asking a lot of my parents every day.

This event is being hosted by East Central Regional Development Commission in collaboration with regional County Economic Development Directors and the Initiative Foundation. Also supporting this conference is the Blandin Foundation and the MN Office of Broadband Development as part of the annual broadband conference, Building on Broadband: Inspiring Progress.

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