BROADBAND BATTLE: Rural Iowa Service At Stake

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Baxter -- The drought and lack of a farm bill aren't the only things impacting Rural Iowa.  There is a battle over broadband internet service.  Specifically, how should the Federal Government use tax dollars to subsidize companies that expand broadband?

Small telephone carriers, like Partner Communications Cooperative, serve rural areas like the town of Baxter and Rural Jasper County.  Partner used to receive subsidies to pay off government loans that it took out to expand services.  Now, The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is withholding some of those funds and giving the money to larger carriers, instead.  An FCC spokesman said that its new policy will spread broadband to 200,000 rural Iowans who currently do not have it.

 Partner Executive Vice President Don Jennings said that Iowa’s 140 rural carriers are being left out of the equation.  "We need jobs.  We need growth.  We need to stimulate the businesses in our area."  Sen. Charles Grassley said, "Iowa has more small telephone companies than any other state in the nation.”  Grassley continued, "And I agree with them."  Grassley and the rest of Iowa’s congressional delegation have written letters urging FCC leaders to change their position.

FCC Acting Deputy Dir. Mark Witfield released the following statement to Channel 13:  "The Connect America Fund is designed to expand broadband access to the 19 million rural Americans who lack it -- including over 200,000 rural Iowans -- while at the same time increasing fiscal responsibility in order to be fair to the consumers and small businesses nationwide who pay into the fund."