Japanse researcher studying FF broadband usePublished 12:00pm Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Rural Minnesota’s advanced broadband service is attracting international attention. Japanese researcher Dr. Yoko Kawai recently traveled to five rural Minnesota communities, including Fergus Falls, after her research revealed that Minnesota was leading the pack in rural fiber optics deployment services.
Kawai’s interests lie in rural Minnesota’s ability to use broadband services to strengthen school and economic development.
Minnesota’s high ranking is due in part to its large amount of small companies in rural areas that have opted to deploy fiber optics. Fiber optics, which can store and transfer information over long distances faster than previously used copper deployments, have been installed by smaller Minnesota companies — like Park Region — with headquarters located in the communities they serve.
“We live here, we work here, we need to invest in our community,” said Park Region Business Operations Manager, Tim Brinkman.
Kawai’s research was funded by Housing Fund, a Japanese non-profit organization. Kawai said the purpose of her research is to, “let Japan people know how, in the U.S., people are taking advantage of fiber optics for the good of community and economic development.”
Although Japanese communities do have broadband technology, they are not utilizing it for the benefit of the community in the same way as some American communities, Kawai said.
Kawai met with leaders from the Fergus Falls School District, Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. (ACS), Fergus Falls Medical Group, Fergus Falls Economic Development, Park Region Companies and customers who are taking advantage of the technology.
Fergus Falls Public School District Business Manager Mark Masten met with Kawai to share information on how technology is being used within the school district.
“The most surprising was the involvement of the school,” Kawai said. “Especially because they started well ahead of time.”
Kawai was impressed with the school district’s ability to plan for the future with consideration for technological advancements, especially in regards to email.
“She was quite amazed with the way the parents were able to interact,” Masten said.
Kawai’s interest in Fergus Falls was surprising to Masten, as it is commonly assumed that a country like Japan would be ahead in the use of technology compared to rural Minnesota, he said.
“We take advantage of what we have,” Masten said. “We’re way out in front of the rest of the world.”
Park Region CEO Dave Bickett is hopeful that Kawai’s report will draw attention to the area and possibly open opportunities for business relationships that will benefit the area in the future.