Thirty-eight states, including Iowa, have been awarded broadband infrastructure grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Secretary Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor, announced the grants Wednesday during a conference call. The funding is part of the Federal Recovery Act and is intended to bring high speed internet access to as many as 1.2 million homes.

“I think it’s fair to say that it’s a down payment, not a balloon payment, approach,” Vilsack said. “It clearly makes a difference but there is still far more work to be done to make broadband available in all corners of the country.” Vilsack says the grants should also make the U.S. more competive and create jobs.

“It certainly puts people to work and it certainly begins the process of having the nation focus on where we are competitively with other countries. We’re such a vast nation that it’s difficult for us to recognize that other countries are far, far ahead in terms of high speed internet access and technology than where we are and we have to pay catch up,” Vilsack said.

The $44 million in grants for Iowa includes nearly $8 million for the Clear Lake Independent Telephone Company to bring broadband to approximately 2,000 people and 20 businesse. Another $19 million is directed toward the Winnebago Cooperative Telecom Association to improve bandwidth in 21 rural communities in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota.

Around $8.5 million will help the Farmer’s Mutual Telephone Company improve broadband for more than 3,500 people and 70 businesses in eastern Iowa and $8.3 million is designated for the Hospers Telephone Exchange to connect homes in Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola, and Sioux counties in northwest Iowa.