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For most of the session, I have been working on the governor’s broadband bill with some great colleagues in the House and Senate, as well as the telecommunications partners we have here in the state. This week I got to floor manage the bill in the Senate for debate. Expanding quality broadband access has been important issue in Iowa for a while and it is even more important when many were working from home, taking online classes in their living rooms, or even attending virtual doctor’s appointments during the pandemic. This week the Senate passed House File 848, amending the broadband facility expansion grant program and allowing the state to work on bringing broadband to more Iowans. Why do we need broadband:

  • Enriched Education
  • World-Class Healthcare
  • Improved Public Services and Safety
  • Telework

The goal of this bill is to expand broadband access to underserved areas in Iowa and ensure the technology is not rendered obsolete shortly after it is installed. House File 848 amends the broadband facility expansion grant program administered by the Office of the Chief Information Officer to prescribe new matching percentages for grants, establish new minimum service speeds for qualifying projects, and amend certain factors used in evaluating grant applications.

Iowa currently ranks 45th in the country for broadband access. While over 80 percent of Iowa has access to internet, the average speed is the second slowest in the United States. There are many areas across the state that also have very little options for internet. Internet access opens up a number of opportunities for people, whether it is someone working remotely, furthering their education, or simply improving the quality of life. House File 848 is the next step in getting faster internet to more households in Iowa and bringing more opportunities to all Iowans. We have all agreed we need to build it right so all Iowans have the connectivity they need now and into the future. This is the type of policy that will help small and large businesses grow, increase access to education, and will ultimately further Iowa’s position as a place with a high quality of life.

Author: Carrie Koelker