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Iowa Senate passes broadband bill

The Iowa Senate unanimously passed the House File 848 Tuesday night, a bill that would set up a system of grants for broadband providers in an attempt to boost internet access in rural parts of the state.

The Senate vote follows the bill’s unanimous passage in the House last week and sends the bill to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk for her expected signature.

The bill establishes matching grants for companies that develop broadband infrastructure in areas that don’t have access to high-speed internet. Most of the grants would go toward providing internet service with download and upload speeds of at least 100 megabits per second.

Some grants could go to companies that establish lower upload speeds of at least 20 megabits per second if they’re in the most difficult to reach areas. At least 20 percent of the amount of the grants awarded must be allocated to projects in difficult-to-serve areas where no service is available at those speeds.

In January, Reynolds announced a rural broadband initiative as one of her top priorities over the next four years. She called on lawmakers to allocate $450 million in state investment over the next three fiscal years.

Lawmakers have yet to agree on how much funding to set aside for the program and plan to provide the funding for the grants in a separate bill.

Previous coverage

Iowa allocates $15 million to broadband providers throughout the state -March 24, 2021

Expanding Broadband Access Across Iowa -Sept. 9, 2020

Iowa Senate passes broadband bill | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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