Hot spots and dead spots in Stevens County


Earlier I wrote a little bit about the wireless hot spots in Stevens County. At that point, Resources Connections (the folks responsible for the hot spots) had done a lot of research and planning to decide where to put the hot spots. Last week I had the opportunity to talk to the installer and tech expert behind the hot spots.

Currently there are three hot spots in Stevens County: a Mexican restaurant in Morris, a gas station in Hancock and a shop/café in Donnelly. Each hot spot includes a computer that’s available to the public and of course wireless access available to anyone with a laptop or Wi-Fi enabled gadget/smartphone. The hot spots have been up for a couple of months, Joe De Vita set them up. Joe is the IT Manager at the hospital – and I don’t think they could have picked a better person to set it up. He said they’ve had exactly one call for support since the hot spots were lit up. Impressive!

The hot spots are getting plenty of use. People come in to use the wireless connectivity and the computer. Unfortunately the onsite training and support is pretty minimal; it relies entirely on the person who happens to be working at the host location. So at the café, you might get more attention than at the gas station where the work is a little more rushed – but it seems to be working well.

The big question, especially for readers who may be thinking about public access computer is – how do those computer run so smoothly. Joe set them up well. (Joe also donated much of the equipment.)

They started by finding a reputable hot spot provider who will take on support and management aspects of the wireless network with something such as hot spot systems. Each computer has a five year warranty. Joe has remote access to fix any issues. But more importantly, he uses Microsoft SteadyState, a program that will reboot after each use and revert the computer to a previously stored state. In essence the slate is wiped clean after each user.

Joe also involved with an effort to put the Stevens County cemetery information online. They have volunteers who have slogged through cemetery records up to 1972 (more recent when available) to gather the details. Then Joe puts the information online as a searchable database. So far they have records from 12 cemeteries online and are working on 16 more. It’s a great boon to area genealogists and genealogists from the area. You can find out where someone is buried, when they died and often how with added notes.

Both programs are supported by the Stevens County Economic Improvement Commission, a project partner in the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities initiative. MIRC is a coalition of 19 statewide partners and 11 demonstration communities funded in large part through an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant. The work of the coalition focuses on bringing the full promise of broadband technologies to rural Minnesota communities, businesses and people. Blandin Foundation serves as the project administrator.