Mike Gronstal

Mike Gronstal

Governor Branstad has said he’ll push again in 2015 for legislation that would somehow speed up broadband service and expand its reach in Iowa. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal says last year’s attempt to promote broadband access in Iowa got bogged down on details that won’t be an obstacle in 2015.

“It was a fairly complex piece of legislation and about three-quarters of what was in it has been dealt with by the feds,” Gronstal says, “so it’s a paired down set of issues.”

However, Gronstal admits the fight between cell phone companies that want to put up new towers and cities that have zoning issues will be a sticking point again this year.

“Cities had legitimate concerns that a cell phone company shouldn’t be able to just be able to pick and choose any place they want to, to put up a cell tower,” Gronstal says, “and the cell phone companies had a legitimate concern that sometimes it is very difficult to get cities to quickly approve locations for these cell towers.”

Another other stumbling block for last year’s bill was a disagreement over what kind of incentive to provide companies that expand broadband service and whether it should be limited to companies agreeing to extend broadband into areas that did not have the service already. A proposal called the “Connect Every Iowan” bill that came up for a vote in the Iowa House failed to pass, mainly because of disagreements over whether it would achieve the goal of connecting any Iowan to broadband. In August, Governor Branstad said the goal should be to “Connect Every Acre” since modern farming techniques now require a connection to the internet, but broadband access is sparse in rural Iowa.