Among the priorities of the 2021 legislative session is addressing broadband internet quality across Iowa. It was really driven home during the last year of working from home, online learning, quarantining at home, and general increase in technology use that internet has become a necessary infrastructure issue, not a luxury. To complicate the issue, Iowa ranges from growing metropolitan centers to rural gravel roads with homes sometimes a mile apart.
First, it should be noted that many areas have faster, better internet services than we think. I have had to ask the family to stop using our home Wi-Fi when I would attend an online video/audio meeting. My video feed would almost make it, but the screen would freeze for seconds at a time, and once in a while the program would lock up completely. Recently, I learned I was subscribed to an old internet plan, my Windstream service had already been updated years earlier, and all I had to do was subscribe to the modern plan, which doesn’t cost much more. It pays to check for updates from your other monthly providers such as phone service, satellite radio or satellite TV. Service packages change as technology gets better, often to the customers’ benefit. We really need to know how good of internet we have before we look for other answers. For those across Iowa who use Windstream, the number to see if they can upgrade their service is 800-345-3874.
But that won’t help if you live in a place where the equipment, fiber optic cable, or wireless tower don’t serve your area. In those cases, the governor has made it a priority to work to get every Iowan connected. She has introduced a bill to create a three-tiered program to help internet providers reach Iowans with low or no internet service. The most assistance goes to providers installing internet infrastructure in the least served areas and lower amounts to those who already serve areas with decent internet. One of her points is to make sure the rural/urban divide does not grow.
I believe the states who first get statewide reliable internet capable of high volume use will benefit economically. Our own businesses and residents will be set to compete globally from their own hometowns. I am especially thinking of keeping our best and brightest here in Iowa after college or when they start a family. Businesses from out of state may see our pro-business climate an improving tax code, but may need better broadband service to justify moving to Iowa. The need for better and faster broadband coverage will only grow.
It has been a pleasure working with the governor’s staff and House members on the same project. We will be working through the session on this and other bills to update Iowa’s technology in order to compete and win in a digital world that will only get more digital.