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Bridging the #DigitalDivide in 2022

How Land O’Lakes leadership in internet expansion is helping communities connect (and prosper) across the U.S.
 

It’s 2022. Everybody needs broadband internet connectivity.
What many may not know is this: It’s about so much more than just a high-speed internet connection. It’s a multiplier effect that ripples across education, health care, entrepreneurship, climate change -- and well beyond. It unlocks economic prosperity that fuels vibrant and thriving communities.
Expanding connectivity is a world-changing effort. The American Connect Project was convened by Land O’Lakes in partnership with scores of companies and organizations in pursuit of this aim. Here’s a quick breakdown of how it’s going about it:

  • American Connection Project Policy Coalition: A 175+ member coalition convening business leaders and advocates to push for significant  investment in broadband infrastructure to close the digital divide.

  • American Connection Communities: An innovative economic development program spearheaded in Aberdeen, S.D., which will be the first of a set of rural communities to benefit from several months of strategic planning and engagement through CORI’s Rural Innovation Initiative.

  • American Connection Corps: A boots-on-the-ground initiative that placed 50 Fellows in communities across the country to tackle the challenge of connectivity. This new generation of community leaders will work to increase digital access and inclusion in their communities by coordinating local partners to access federal and state resources for broadband access.

  • Internet expansion: From mapping and providing free Wi-Fi locations to delivering long-term solutions (like Microsoft Airband) in partnership with local communities, expanding connectivity simply cannot wait. So, we’re not.

Utilizing the Cooperative Model for internet advancement

Land O’Lakes embraces the power of the cooperative model to advance infrastructure and connectivity on a larger scale. Many member-owners have stepped up to help connect their farms and surrounding communities.
Now farmer-owners are reporting in real-time how connectivity can revolutionize our food system by advancing on-farm technology and sustainability practices.
Learn about three of our member-owned cooperatives, plus one of our dairy plants, that have completed successful broadband expansion projects through partnerships with service providers and community leaders.
 
Sunrise Co-op
“Adding value as a retail co-op doesn’t always mean selling something to our customer-owners. Sometimes it means linking them with something that will provide value. As a co-op, that’s our job.”
-George Secor, President and CEO of Sunrise
 
Co-Alliance Co-op
 “If you have always had good internet, and you‘ve never struggled with it, then you just don’t think about it. But there are so many disconnected people in rural communities who just don’t have good options for broadband internet.”
-Troy Hoover, Co-Alliance Inc IT director
 
Frontier Co-op
“This is an ongoing challenge for rural communities that the pandemic made worse. We’re proud to be a part of the solution that connects our communities to the digital age.”
- Ryan Meister, VP of Digital Transformation at Frontier
 
Tulare Dairy Plant
"We're so excited to be working with these organizations to bring real solutions for the lack of broadband access in these communities and for our dairy famer-owners in the Tulare area.”
-Teddy Bekele, Chief Technology Officer at Land O’Lakes

Looking forward

The American Connection Project is firing on all cylinders: For the policy coalition, the passage of the infrastructure bill with significant broadband funding in late 2021 was a milestone. Now, the coalition is working to ensure that implementation of this funding reaches the communities, businesses and families not connected today
 
And since their placement in the summer of 2021, American Connection Corps Fellows have:

  • Connected over 500 households with high-speed internet.

  • Led 2,000 households in speed mapping initiatives to increase broadband access.

  • Conducted 7 workshops and trained 30 digital navigators (in Q1) to boost digital literacy in their communities.

  • Distributed more than 600 total desktops, laptops, and tablets to communities to boost digital access.

  • Established 40 new partnerships with community stakeholders around broadband development and digital literacy.

But there’s so much more work to do. The Federal Communications Commission estimates that 14.5 million Americans still lack high-speed internet access, and some experts say this number could be twice that. Through the American Connection Project, Land O’Lakes and its cooperative network is committed to helping bridge the digital divide through awareness, advocacy and action.
Follow our channels closely as we continue to share progress and stories from The American Connection Project.