Key senators are asking questions about a bill that supporters say will help expand broadband access in Iowa.
The House-passed bill would set up a new, state-run grant program, but it would depend on getting federal money to run it. Senator Janet Petersen, a Democrat from Des Moines, says that puts parameters on how federal money can be utilized.
“And I don’t think we want to necessarily do that,” Petersen says, “and potentially jeopardize getting federal funding in here that may actually help Iowans more.”
The bill that cleared the House with bipartisan support in April also establishes a new, 10-year-long property tax exemption for companies that extend high-speed broadband service in “unserved or underserved areas” of the state. Senator Petersen says that tax break should be targeted to getting broadband to the 27,000 Iowa households that do not have access to it today.
“If we’re going to offer incentives, I think we need to be offering incentives to reach that population, not incentivizing what’s already going on in our state,” Petersen says.
Petersen and two other senators held a statehouse hearing today on the issue and lobbyists for the telecommunications industry expressed support for the House bill. A spokesman for the Iowa Communications Alliance says the Iowa businesses and households that do not have access to broadband today are “the hardest and most expensive to serve” — either because they may be in rural, isolated areas or they’re in an area that already has broadband service, but lacks the capacity to add new customers.