In a matter of days, broadband connectivity went from being a luxury to a virtual necessity. Adults suddenly found themselves working from home while students from preschool through college moved to learning online practically overnight. For some individuals, the only way to see their doctor right now is through telemedicine.
While many across Iowa have access to the internet infrastructure to meet these new demands, many others do not.
By removing barriers to entry and deployment, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other agencies within the federal government have been working with the private sector to close the digital divide. But solving the issue requires federal, state, and local governments all pulling in the same direction.
As state lawmakers return to session after the worst of the COVID-19 crisis has passed, there is a great opportunity to connect rural Iowans by removing barriers to broadband deployment.
While bridging the digital divide has grown on lawmakers’ priority lists, not all solutions to the problem are created equally. Many good faith efforts across the country have had little impact, and some have even slowed down the pace of closing the digital divide.
That is why ITR supports the following policies to consider, and strongly rejects the subsequent list of policies to avoid.
Policies to consider:
- Reduce costs and application times for 5G deployment
- Be technologically neutral
- Work with the federal government on broadband mapping
- Reduce or eliminate state right of ways fees and make state infrastructure available to speed up deployment
- Utilize electric co-ops infrastructure
- Pass “dig once” and “one-touch make-ready” policies
- Streamline existing grant programs
Policies to avoid:
Iowa shouldn’t spend millions of dollars when they can least afford it in attempts to connect its citizens. Lawmakers can use these policies listed above to provide high-speed internet for more Iowans while using taxpayer dollars wisely.
- Don’t create government-owned networks
- Don’t create new grant programs
- Don’t enact state net neutrality
- Don’t look to generate revenue from broadband deployment
Click to read more policy details.