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Cloquet encourages residents to participate in broadband survey

The broadband survey is intended to find out what the needs of Cloquet residents are when it comes to broadband service, and allow for the broadband committee to plan for the future.

Lara Wilkinson, Cloquet councilor at large, speaks during a press conference
Lara Wilkinson, Cloquet councilor at large, encourages Cloquet residents to take part in the city's broadband survey, during a press conference Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022.
Dylan Sherman / Cloquet Pine Journal
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CLOQUET — Lara Wilkinson, councilor at large, asked for all residents in the city to take part in a internet broadband survey during a press conference Wednesday, Jan. 12.

Wilkinson, a member of the Cloquet Broadband Committee, said the survey is the first step in gauging what the city can then do to improve services in the community.

"We are going to have to rise to meet the challenges of a world that simply works and meets differently than it ever did before," she said.

Wilkinson said with the rise of remote work, access to strong reliable broadband is important for the city to entice more businesses and workers to live there.

"We are going to see a shift in broadband needs as an economic driver when people do not have to live where they work," she said. "We might want to have to opportunity to have them come into our community and work and engage in our tax base."

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A broadband feasibility study may be conducted by city officials in the near future to determine opportunities and methods for enhanced internet service.

The survey is open to all Cloquet residents Jan. 3-31. Wilkinson said it is an extension of a survey that was conducted in summer 2021, but the committee wants more responses.

Residents who already completed the survey in the summer do not need to do so again.

Residents in eastern Cloquet, between Pinewood Drive and Crosby Road, will also be automatically entered in to win an iPad for completing the survey.

Improving connectivity for business was not the only issue discussed; a representative from Community Memorial Hospital and Cloquet Superintendent Michael Cary explained how reliable service is important to them as well.

Sam Jacobson, an IT analyst and security officer for the hospital, said telemedicine and connectivity for long-term care residents crucial.

"We have seen an increased need for flexibility for our staff and our care providers," he said. "Anyone that has the ability to work from home ... the ability to do that with high-speed internet and reliable connections has been really important."

Jacobson said even the hospital has needs for ensuring its broadband is reliable.

For the hospital's long-term care residents who use smartphones or tablets to connect with their family and friends, strong service is important for them as well.

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Jacobson said as the use of telemedicine and remote work grows, so will the need for high-speed connectivity.

"It is a critical need for the community going forward," he said.

Cary added for students, during a time when remote learning was forced, connectivity was extremely important for daily learning.

"Access to internet and information can be especially important when we need to be flexible with our teaching and learning," he said.

Cary said the school district has identified 25% of its community does not have access to broadband.

"So you think about that, in the situation where you are forced to try and deliver their educational services through online," he said.

Moving forward, Wilkinson said the results from the survey will determine the next steps in the process.

Once the broadband committee understands the needs of the community, whether it be access, cost or reliability, then Wilkinson said, the committee will plan its next steps.

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A link to the survey can be found at goctc.com/cloquet.

This story originally contained a misspelling of Lara Wilkinson's name. It was updated at 1:47 p.m. Jan. 13 with the proper spelling. It was originally published at 12:22 p.m. Jan 13. The Pine Journal regrets the error.

Related Topics: CLOQUETINTERNET
Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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