In the past having a high-speed internet connection has been considered a luxury. However, in today’s world is has become a necessity – much like electricity became a necessity close to 100 years ago. A few years ago, Iowa started to connect every Iowan to the internet by creating a broadband grant program. The governor has requested $15 million this year to fund broadband grants for broadband deployment in unserved areas of the state.
In addition to funding the existing grant program, House Republicans have been working on a number of ideas to facilitate Iowan’s access – especially in rural areas – to high speed internet. Some of the major barriers include: money, lack of infrastructure, and burdensome regulations.
To reduce the regulatory burden, one avenue is to look at strengthening Iowa’s “dig once” policy. A “dig once” policy requires the inclusion of broadband conduit (pipes which can be used to easily run fiber-optic communications cable) in the right of way during a road construction project. This would reduce the cost of getting internet to homes and businesses by up to 90%, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
Streamlining regulations across the state can encourage communities to be “Broadband Ready.” Everyone likes certainty, this includes businesses looking to grow and expand. Communities will be able to receive the broadband ready designation by passing a model ordinance, designating one point of contact for permitting and other issues, and having a set and reasonable fee structure. Becoming “broadband ready” lets internet providers know that a community is ready to deploy internet access to everyone who lives and works there.
A “Telecommuter Ready” designation encourages political subdivisions to support and commit to promote the availability of telecommuting. The city must meet minimum requirements that are intended to encourage and attract remote or telecommuting workers to their community.
House Republicans are working on these and many other ideas to give every Iowan the ability to connect to the internet. More ideas will be unveiled in the coming weeks.