It’s possible Governor Branstad may preside over the sale of a controversial state asset he helped create.
The Iowa Communications Network provides phone, data and video service to schools, public libraries, hospitals and National Guard armories. Critics have long argued it’s unfair state government competition with the private sector.
The legislature voted last spring to seek a fair market appraisal of the system and the head of the network says they’ll begin accepting bids next year to sell or lease the 20-year-old fiber optic lines that make up the network. Governor Branstad approved the creation of the network and Branstad says he wants to make sure any deal protects current network users.
“I don’t think there’s a need to sell,” Branstad says. “It’s really a question of what is the best use for the future and would it be better that it be in the private sector, but the services to the educational entities be guaranteed. I don’t know. Maybe the state can get significant resources out of it that can be used elsewhere.”
The state has invested about a quarter of a billion dollars on the Iowa Communitcations Network, but Branstad says it’s unlikely a company or set of companies would pay that much to acquire the network now.
“You buy something new and then you sell it 20 years later, you don’t expect that you’re going to get totally what you paid for it,” Branstad says. “…We’re going to look at this and see if this is something that makes sense for the taxpayers of Iowa, makes sense for the people that use the ICN system. I believe that the ICN is a valuable asset. It’s been a great educational tool in our state and we certainly want to make sure, for the future, that it continues to be that.”
The Iowa Communications Network provides can provide live video links to 700 classrooms around the state. Branstad was governor when the idea for the network was hatched, but Branstad says he’s open to considering all options.
“You know, this was 20 years ago and we recognize that we need to look to the future and not be blinded by pride of authorship or something like that,” Branstad says.
Branstad would consider allowing private users to subscribe to the broadband service if it doesn’t create unfair competition for other companies that are already providing high-speed service in the area.