A representative from the United States Department of Agriculture says access to phone and high-speed internet service is improving throughout rural Iowa — and it could get even better. The U.S.D.A.’s deputy director of the Rural Utilities Service, Jessica Zufolo, says they can provide low-interest loans and grants to rural telecommunications cooperatives to help them improve their service.
She says,”The cost of building networks in rural areas is just very , very high and that’s a reality that rural communities face every day in trying to attract businesses and capital to their regions.” Zufolo says Iowa is in a better position than some states. “Iowa is somewhat unique because there’s about 147 independent rural telephone companies that serve the state and so very few states have that level of activity among rural co-ops,” Zufolo says. She says getting the money to expand the service is still the key.
Zufolo says some of the challenges that the Iowa co-ops face are similar to those faced in other states, where the cost of service is extremely expensive, while users are facing costs issues in the tougher economic times. Zufolo and Iowa’s director of the service, Bill Menner stopped in Wellman, southwest of Iowa City and in Dyersville to promote telecommunications technology.
Menner says Iowa has never been in a better position to improve rural economies.
Menner says,” There’s no doubt that we have the resources we need right now to help co-ops and other telecommunications providers. We have an unprecedented opportunity through the Recovery Act with dollars we’ve never seen before.” Menner says more than 100-million stimulus dollars are available for rural development in Iowa. The deadline to apply for the money is next September.