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Broadband survey is first step to better connections

The Cloquet Broadband Committee is asking residents for a few minutes of their time to complete a survey about their internet service.

Local business people and public officials gathered Wednesday morning to talk about the need for reliable high-speed internet in today's world, and how the pandemic has exposed some of the deficits in the city of Cloquet.

Cloquet schools superintendent Michael Cary talked about the progression of access to information, from the lucky few with a set of encyclopedias, to dial-up internet and the information it brought into homes, to broadband which opened up not only written information, but movies, music, interactive learning and more. "It really changed the game, where now you could have information pumped directly into your home," he said.

"That's become so normal. I think for much of our society, we forget there are people in our communities who don't have the same access. It becomes extremely critical in situations where we have to deliver education or learning through that medium," Cary said. "A significant proportion - 25 percent - of our students don't have consistent access to high-speed internet."

Sam Jacobson from Community Memorial Hospital talked about the need for high-speed internet for successful telehealth, employees who need to work remotely and even long-term care residents who communicated with their families via iPads during the pandemic when visits were limited.

Thanks to the selection of the city of Cloquet as a Blandin Broadband community, the city has more resources now to evaluate needs and options to improve service within city limits. But they need more information from residents and businesses about their access to the internet: cost, reliability, speed and more. The information gained will help guide the city and community leaders on opportunities to explore ways to improve broadband services.

That's where the survey comes in. Through Jan. 31, the city is reopening its broadband survey at https://www.goctc.com/cloquet for individuals and businesses within the eastern Cloquet city limits. A map puts the borders of eastern Cloquet at Kinden and West St. Louis River roads to the north, Crosby Road to the east, Moorhead Road to the south and Pinewood Drive and the St. Louis River to the west. Scanlon is not included, nor is the Fond du Lac Reservation, which will be rolling out its broadband fiber to all residents within the FDL Reservation territory, including the western municipal city limits of Cloquet.

Those without internet access can get assistance with completing the survey at the Cloquet Public Library. Anyone who completes the survey will be entered into a drawing to win an iPad.

People can test upload speeds at this website: https://broadband.ramsmn.org/mn-rural-broadband-coallition-initiative.

"We just ask that anyone in our service area just take the time and fill out the survey," said Laura Wilkinson. "We don't know what the needs are unless our citizens and our businesses step up and tell us. It doesn't take long and it could really have an impact on the direction we take long-term in making sure we have the best service available to the most people in our community."