Iowa Governor Terry Branstad wants the state to speed up its efforts to provide better access to broadband.
"This is electricity of the future,” the governor said Tuesday during his weekly news conference.
Branstad said the state ranks 11th out of 12 in Midwestern states in a ranking by TechNet State Broadband Index, which bases its numbers on broadband users.
Branstad said, "We want to make Iowa the most connected state in the Midwest.” Part of Branstad's plan could be a public-private partnership to provide broadband access to all Iowans.
Nearly one-third of Iowans don't have access to broadband, choose not to get it or can't afford it. The Iowa Communications Network, which Branstad created as governor back in 1989, could have a role in future broadband development, Branstad said.
Branstad tried to sell off the high-speed fiber optic system this year but couldn't find acceptable bids to private companies. Now he maintains that the ICN, "Is a logical extension of what needs to be done."
Branstad couldn't say how much the plan could cost but wants a committee to have ideas for state lawmakers to take up in January. The governor's office sent out these statements of supports from Iowa groups:
Dave Duncan, President of the Iowa Telecommunications Association (ITA), said, "Governor Branstad’s announcement today rings so close to the guiding principles our association has promoted over the past four years – that we need ‘broadband for all Iowans.
“Broadband connectivity is an essential service when you are looking to advance Iowa's economic growth opportunities. Whether you are a small business looking to connect to customers around the world, a farmer checking global markets, or a student doing homework, you cannot afford to be without high-speed broadband internet access.”
Rural Iowa Independent Telephone Association said, "The Rural Iowa Independent Telephone Association (RIITA) announced its support for Governor Terry Brandstad’s initiative today, “Connect Every Iowan” and efforts to increase the access, adoption and use of broadband technology.
"Iowa has a unique position in that our state has the most Independent Telecommunication Companies (ITCs) in the country. Over 140 companies have been instrumental in deploying broadband and working with their communities relating to the adoption and use of this technology,” noted Sheila Navis, RIITA Executive Director.
CenturyLink: “CenturyLink appreciates the efforts of Governor Branstad to further strengthen Iowa’s broadband climate, which will ultimately grow Iowa’s economy and enhance educational opportunities. "We look forward to working with all stakeholders and policymakers to increase broadband adoption and access.”
Technology Association of Iowa: “Access to larger bandwidth is essential to connect Iowans to each other and for businesses to connect to Iowa customers. TAI will engage in the process that Governor Branstad has established and will work with the legislature to put in place policies that make sense for Iowans.”
Heartland Technology Alliance: The following statement is attributable to Heartland Technology Alliance Executive Director John Stineman: "The Heartland Technology Alliance is excited to learn of Governor Branstad's 'Connect Every Iowan' initiative. Broadband connectivity, adoption and deployment can be a game changer for the Midwest. Whether Iowa's metros or rural areas, broadband helps us compete with the world. We are hopeful the STEM Advisory Council's Broadband Committee examines not only the issues of adoption and connectivity, but the regulatory environment Iowa ought to pursue in order to attract private sector investment in broadband deployment in all forms across the State. The Heartland Technology Alliance looks forward to being an active participant in these important discussions and appreciates Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds’ leadership in this critical area."
A potential Democratic challenger had a much different statement. Cedar Rapids State Representative Tyler Olson, a candidate for governor, sent out a statement that said: “I have been saying for months that Iowa must become a leader on broadband. And while I am glad to welcome Governor Branstad to the discussion, it is disappointing that it took a serious re-election threat to get him to pay attention to this critical issue for Iowa's future.”