Senate Democrats are proposing a more expansive plan to expand broadband service in Iowa than Republican Governor Terry Branstad has proposed. Senator Steve Sodders, a Democrat from State Center, leads the senate committee that’s been working on the proposal.
“Look at what we did in the ’30s and ’40s…what we did with telephones and what we did with electricity, we made a conscious effort to get those out to the rural areas…We did that with farm-to-market roads,” Sodders says. “And so this has to be that same kind of an investment by Iowans, because I think this is the next big thing that we need to do.”
In addition to a property tax break for companies that invest in broadband infrastructure similar to what Branstad has proposed, the Senate Economic Growth Committee’s proposal would set up a new loan program. It’s for small telephone companies in the state that argue it’s not easy for them to line up the capital that’s needed to invest in broadband. The senate plan also would create a new tax credit for any company that expands broadband service.
“So we have options in the senate bill,” Sodders says, “and all those things are still going to be worked out as we move the bill forward.”
House Republicans are discussing some of the same ideas, but the bill that cleared a House committee this past week only dealt with property tax abatement for broadband infrastructure. Sodders says access to the internet is a necessity of life, especially for the state’s school children.
“My daughter comes home from West Marshall School and she gets on my wife’s laptop and does…all these things that they require now. Her best friend lives in LaMoille, Iowa and she cannot do it at her house,” Sodders says. “High speed and affordable high speed shouldn’t be about where you live. It shouldn’t be about a zip code.”
Sodders says those who live in sparsely populated parts of the state probably aren’t going to get high-speed access through fiber, but instead the focus should be on reliable cellular service. Plus, there’s the option in some rural areas of using broadband spectrum now available through digital television. Sodders made his comments during taping of the “Iowa Press” program which airs Friday night at 7:30 on Iowa Public Television.