How should Iowa spend millions, expand internet access? State wants to hear opinions
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The State of Iowa is developing a five-year plan for how to improve “digital equity,” and they’re looking for feedback to inform that plan.
Wednesday night, six people gathered inside a room at Kirkwood Community College for a town-hall meeting. There, Jeff Berckes, Digital Equity Coordinator for the State of Iowa, explained the four facets of what exactly digital equity is:
- access/being able to plug in
- having the right hardware
- the ability/confidence to use devices
Berckes added new federal money is about to become available to address these issues. The town halls are so officials can hear from Iowans and use that feedback to inform a digital equity plan that will have a budget of about $13 million.
When TV9 asked Chuck Deisbeck, CEO of South Slope, why he attended the meeting, he said, “I’m an actual provider in the area. So: what can I learn that I could potentially take back to my company that we can assist with getting more broadband out to Iowans?”
Deisbeck, Pat O’Connor with Alliant Energy, and Mark Lafferty with Fiberutilities Group explained grant money was crucial when it came to making sure everyone could participate in digital life, especially those who live in rural areas.
“If it was purely a business decision, the service provider would say, ‘No, for those three customers out there, I can never make it make sense financially,’” said Lafferty.
The leaders added that the grant money was needed so businesses could afford to reach customers they would likely never make money off of serving.
“It boils down to cost,” said Deisbeck.
A draft plan for improving digital equity across the state will be released in August.
The next town hall meeting will be March 22 at the Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa, Room 118 at 6:00 p.m.
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