Blandin Foundation selected Otter Tail County for an intensive, two-year partnership to advance local broadband initiatives.

Otter Tail County joins Chisago Lakes, Le Sueur County, Red Lake Nation and White Earth Nation in becoming Blandin Broadband Communities, according to a Blandin Foundation news release. Foundation staff and consultants will work with the five communities to provide planning, technical and financial support as diverse, local leadership teams design and drive digital technology initiatives to bring greater success to their communities.

“The digital divide is real, and we don’t want our constituents to be left behind,” said Otter Tail County Commissioner Wayne Johnson in the release.

Communities were selected based on their demonstrated commitment to work together across sectors to set and meet information technology goals and bridge digital divides.

Otter Tail County’s and White Earth Nation’s participation in the BBC program is supported with a $25,000 grant from West Central Initiative.

“Access to broadband is vital for communities. It supports economic development, quality health care, equitable education, and more. Broadband is no longer a want—it’s a need,” said West Central Initiative president Anna Wasescha in the release.

Otter Tail County joins 44 rural Minnesota communities that have gone through the BBC program.

Next steps for each community includes assessing the community’s current broadband access and use and holding a series of public planning meetings.