When broadband internet recently arrived at the University of Idaho’s Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center, Kyle Nagy said the technology became an instant “game-changer” on expanding distance education opportunities.
“Before, when it was windy or there would be thick cloud cover, we’d lose the internet sporadically throughout the day,” said Nagy, the center’s superintendent and orchard operations manager said.
Not having to attend a class in person on a set day and time has allowed me to thrive in all aspects of my life without feeling overwhelmed or like I couldn’t accomplish my goals. Jessica Hall, U of I graduate from Caldwell
When the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences’ center near the base of Schweitzer Mountain hosted the Heritage Orchard Conference before the pandemic, perhaps 100 people attended the in-person event.
Now, thanks to broadband installed last winter, more than 1,200 researchers, gardeners and orchardists from nearly all 50 states and 18 countries were enrolled in the webinars last spring.
“We reached out to a much larger crowd,” Nagy said. “No doubt, the broadband and having the bandwidth to reach that many people has been a game-changer.”
An Idaho Department of Commerce Rural Broadband grant of $410,000 funded the service, which provides public-accessible wireless internet to the center as well as Extension centers in Boundary, Bonner and Kootenai counties.