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Free Internet access available in communities

Morris now has free, wireless Internet service available to anyone in the community thanks to the initiative of a group of Stevens County nonprofit organizations.

The nonprofits came together at a Bremer Brown Bag lunch in early 2009 to discuss ways to work together. As a result of that meeting, members of the group applied for and received grants and other

funding from West Central Initiative, the Blandin Foundation, Bremer Bank and Operation Roundup, which is a fund administered by Runestone Electric Association. The Stevens County Economic Improvement Commission serves as fiscal agent.

The group then hired a facilitator to convene a summit of nonprofits in September 2009. Over 40 people attended that gathering, representing 32 countywide organizations.

Two goals came out of the summit. One was to hold an expo (two have since been held at the

Armory in Morris), and forming a communications group.

The communications group started by developing a website which the county's nonprofits have been invited to be part of and have been asked to go into to provide information about their organization.

The group then leveraged a $20,000 grant through Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) to have five public access computers (Wi-Fi) installed at various sites in the county, with three years of prepaid service.

Sites for computers with free Internet service include the Chokio city office, ByLo in Hancock, HD&Co. in Donnelly, and at LaTienda Market and Pomme de Terre Food Coop in Morris. Anyone can use these computers at any of the five "hot spots."

People can use them for one hour and then the system will log them out. Information must be saved on a portable device and will not be saved on the computer.

In a nod to the group that made the service possible, and also to educate the public about the county's nonprofits and the services they provide, the home page for these computers is the Resource Connections website at

For those who need help getting started, basic computer training is available through Morris Community Education. Hot spots are available during regular business hours.

The free Wi-Fi service was made possible through a grant from SCEIC and the Blandin Foundation Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) project, funded in large part through an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant.