Working smarter: How state leaders will expand broadband to rural Iowa

A priority for Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is to expand broadband capabilities to rural areas of the state, with the hopes of promoting new investment and connection in rural Iowa.

During her Condition of the State Address earlier this month, Reynolds announced that Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg would lead the initiative. Reynolds said she hoped the initiative would, “Keep and bring home Iowa’s sons and daughters and grow the next generation of community leaders.”

Gregg told Clay & Milk last week that his office is engaging with organizations who are already working to expand broadband access to understand what it is they’re working on and how they could elevate and enhance that work.

“Connecting rural Iowa through high-speed internet is so important, not only for business and agriculture, but it’s really an expectation for young people,” Gregg said. “If we expect folks to consider living in rural Iowa, they have to be connected.”

Rural broadband explained

Due to a lack of high-speed fiber optic connections, the cost and regulatory restrictions on technology companies, rural America has been underserved when it comes to broadband internet access.

But expanding rural broadband access has gained traction as more legislators recognize that access to broadband is an important piece to economic success.

“We’re really focused on finding ways to encourage investment all throughout our state, growing the state—not just in terms of population—but in terms of growing the next generation of leadership,” Gregg said. “Then, of course, connecting rural Iowa through high-speed internet.”

Reynolds said some of the work being done in her hometown of Osceola in Clark County gives her hope for what can be done across the state.

“There is a lot of interest in this rural Iowa initiative and everywhere we go people are wanting to be a part of it,” Reynolds said. “They want to talk about what they’re doing. The more that we can bring that information in, that gives us a better foundation to start from so we’re not stepping over programs that are already taking place, but rather building on the exciting initiatives that we see.”

Morgan Garner covers the Iowa Statehouse for Clay & Milk