A new “Iowa Communications Alliance” will be formed on January 1st to represent 130 locally-owned companies that provide telephone, high-speed internet, broadband and digital TV services.
“We’re in the process of dissolving the 117-year-old Iowa Telecommunications Association, merging it with the Rural Iowa Independent Telephone Association,” says Dave Duncan, the new group’s CEO.
According to Duncan, the local companies he represents are “well positioned to take the lead” to provide broadband access to businesses and homes, but the price is an impediment.
“If it was cheap, if it was easy, it would have been done, but there are substantial costs to build out to those unserved and underserved Iowans,” Duncan says.
He says having the state provide financial “off-sets” for the costs of expanded broadband service is key.
“We also believe it’s very important for the state to be involved in the digital literacy programs so that people who might be customers of the broadband services actually can become customers,” Duncan says. “We’ve seen some studies that show that a lot of people, many of the people who don’t currently subscribe to the internet don’t subscribe not because they don’t have access, it’s because they don’t see the relevance of being on the internet or connecting.”
A recent study concluded that while broadband use is growing in Iowa, about a third of Iowa households do not have access to broadband, which offers the quickest connection. Iowa has 154 local phone companies — more than any other state. Officials estimate Iowa’s entire telecommunications industry — including wireless providers, cable TV and traditional phone companies — annually contributes $3.5 billion to the state’s economy. About 25,000 Iowans are employed in the tel-com industry.