Four southwest Minnesota organizations were recently recognized with Blandin’s Courageous Leadership Award for their early and sustained leadership in rural broadband access and use. Honorees in our region are:
City of Windom, for its vision and perseverance to construct and operate Minnesota’s first municipal fiber-to-the-home network and its support of regional broadband via Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services.
Lac qui Parle County and Farmers Mutual Telephone Company, for their vision and innovative partnership that brought fiber optic communications to more than 1700 rural farms and businesses providing a model that has now been replicated in multiple rural Minnesota counties.
RS Fiber, for an unwavering commitment, courage and innovative approach that launched a new broadband cooperative providing fiber optic connectivity to residents in 10 communities and robust wireless services to farms and rural residents across multiple counties resulting in more competitive enterprises and new community development opportunities.
Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services, for its vision and multi-community collaboration in creating a public regional fiber network that serves residential and business customers in eight rural communities ranging from 59 to just over 3,200 people.
The Blandin Foundation, a longtime partner focused on supporting rural Minnesota, has led statewide efforts for rural broadband access.
“Access to broadband is critical for economic development in rural communities. Affordable, reliable high-speed broadband is an essential part of efforts to foster entrepreneurship, business retention and expansion, and talent attraction, and it is essential for our schools, health care facilities, and anchor institutions. We applaud Blandin’s demonstrated long-time leadership and investment,” said Scott Marquardt, SWIF’s vice president and member of Blandin’s Broadband Strategy Board.
SWIF has been engaged in rural technology discussions for nearly two decades, recognizing its impact on our communities and southwest Minnesota’s economy.
Photo courtesy of Blandin Foundation. Pictured are former Lac qui Parle EDA director Pam Lehmann (from left), Harold Solem and Lac qui Parle County Commissioner Ben Bothun.