Broadband Matters

The Iowa Communications Network has been running an awareness initiative, Broadband Matters, to advocate for high speed broadband throughout the state.

The Governor’s proposed Connecting Iowa Farms, Schools, and Communities Act was filed this week. The bill is numbered HSB 104 in the House and has been referred to the Commerce Committee. [Subcommittee: Cownie (R-Polk), Hall (D-Woodbury), Oldson (D-Polk), Sands (R-Louisa), and Soderberg (R-Plymouth).] The bill is numbered SSB 1146 in the Senate and has been referred to the Economic Growth Committee. [Subcommittee: Sodders (D-Marshall), Breitbach (R-Clayton), Chelgren (R-Wapello), Hart (D-Clinton), and Mathis (D-Linn).]

From the Business Record:

House Study Bill 104 creates a $5 million grant program, provides property tax breaks and establishes an expedited permitting process for the installation of broadband infrastructure.

. . . .

Dustin Miller, general counsel for the Iowa League of Cities, said the property tax relief would be similar to tax abatements already offered by many municipalities. He believes the communications industry would need extra incentives, however, to expand service in areas where they have not found a sound business purpose to do so.

The DE, among others, is registered in favor of this bill. While the awareness initiative is focusing on 1:1 initiatives and initiatives that allow smaller schools to survive and thrive through cooperative efforts to use technology to share teachers, broadband upgrades will also be needed to support statewide online assessments if the Legislature adopts the Smarter Balanced assessments or otherwise requires computer-based administration of assessments.

Update: From the Gazette coverage of the HSB 104 subcommittee meeting:

Former Democratic lawmaker Phil Wise, now with the Department of Education, said the department doesn’t believe it will be possible to deliver a first-class education–the content and new generation assessments “regardless of ZIP code” without a broadband network covering all of Iowa.

The cost will be substantial, lobbyists said. Cell towers can cost $100,000 each, [Mark] Lewellen [of Deere and Co.] said, but the real cost is connecting them to the fiber optics network.

Putting fiber-optic cable in the ground can cost as much as $5,000 a mile and more depending on terrain and time of the year, [Michael] Sadler [of CenturyLink] said. [Dave] Duncan [of the Iowa Communications Alliance] estimated the cost can be $2,000 to $4,000 per connection or customer in cities and as much as $10,000 per connection in rural areas.

From the Annual Condition of Education Report 2014 (page 96) [Note that the STEM Advisory Council is recommending a goal of 1 Mb per student]:

bandwidth 2014

There are eight schools in Iowa with no internet available and 543 schools with bandwidth between 1.5 Mb and 50 Mb.

Broadband Matters is on Twitter as @BroadbandIowa