As Broadband Bill Fails in House, Will 2015 Bring Renewed Focus?

By Chris Earl, KCRG-TV9

CENTER POINT, Iowa – Dawn Conklin has lived with her family on ten acres for more than ten years. They’re not in a city but they are certainly not isolated, either.

“It’s ten minutes to Blairs Ferry Road so it’s not that far,” said Conklin, a wife and mother of two young children. “You can hear the Interstate (380) from where we are.”

Yet Conklin said her internet solutions are costly and not terribly fast. She said she pays $100 a month for 10 GB of usage and, after that, the price can add up. On top of this, Conklin said broadband cards do not last very long.

“They overheat and you have to shut them down,” said Conklin.

The concern over this is also much more than just watching movies or television shows on demand. More and more school districts offer students devices to enhance their learning.

To combat this, Conklin said the smartphones she and her husband have are a decent temporary solution but not for the long term.

It’s an issue that resonates in many parts of rural Iowa.

On the northern edge of the state is the Howard-Winneshiek Community School District, based in Cresco. Superintendent John Carver said Howard-Winn covers students in a very large, and very rural geographical area.

Carver said his district provides technology for all students in K-12. Yet, Carver says, when they leave Cresco, the internet speed and capacity can vary sharply. He is also with Connect Every Iowan, an initiative launched by Governor Branstad’s office, to “increase the access, adoption, and use of broadband technology”.

He cites an example from this winter.

“We had ten snow days,” said Carver. “If we had broadband access deployment through the school district, we could have had virtual school days but that’s not the case.

This comes after a partisan battle in Des Moines over a broadband access bill. The House voted 51-44 against a “broadband expansion bill”.

House File 2472 would have created a series of tax breaks for companies to extend broadband to areas of Iowa that are unserved or underserved.

Included in the bill would have been income tax credits, up to $315,000, for upgrading connections in these areas.

Governor Terry Branstad said, in a statement, “Iowa House Democrats have turned their backs on rural Iowans and those who are underserved.” Democratic State Senator and Branstad’s like opponent in November, Jack Hatch, said the governor’s proposal was very timid and he was very quiet in the debates.

One note of political procedure on broadband internet access for 2015. When it was clear there were 50 “no” votes on the bill, House Majority Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake) switched her “yes” vote to a “no.”, allowing Upmeyer to call the bill back up for reconsideration at a future date because, according parliamentary rules, only those in the prevailing side can call up a bill for reconsideration.

l Comments: (319) 368-8609; chris.earl@sourcemedia.net

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