Opinion: All Iowans deserve quality broadband internet service

A great long-term investment in our communities will connect all Iowans to an even better quality of life, far into our future.

Brian Lohse and Zach Nunn | Guest columnists | Des Moines Register

Now is the time to make history! Iowa is rapidly driving a digital revolution — led by public-private partnership, dynamic innovation, and long-term investment in sustainable technologies. In short, Iowans are being presented a once-in-a-generation opportunity. 

High-speed internet is poised to transform our state. It is as historically significant to the quality of Iowa life as the universal provision of electricity, the development of rural water systems, and the creation of public telephone networks. We now can offer fast and dependable internet access to all Iowans, wherever they may live. The challenges to internet access faced by Iowans from rural farmhouses to city apartments is immediate. Today, Iowa has the second-slowest internet service in the United States and ranks 45th among all states for internet access.

As small-business owners ourselves, we experience directly the limitations for our customers, and our ability to innovate without dependable internet access. As a state legislators, our constituents, many only a few miles apart, experienced dramatically different internet speeds. As Iowans, we join with our neighbors in recognizing the importance of emerging technologies’ demands for ever greater bandwidth to maximize everyone’s potential.

More:Gov. Kim Reynolds uses $200 million in federal COVID recovery funding for broadband grants

Iowa’s investment in high-speed internet provides the network needed to launch our businesses, grow our industries, improve our agriculture, provide timely health care, teach our kids, and develop our state into a national leader — where every community can succeed. Census information indicates one of the common factors shared by rural communities that experienced growth during the past decade is the access to fast, dependable internet service. 

More:Gov. Kim Reynolds signs broadband grant law with promise of $100 million funding to come

The Legislature, working with Gov. Kim Reynolds, passed House File 848 to help solve these problems. This legislation created the Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Fund.  The Legislature appropriated $100 million for grants to partner in developing high speed broadband services to areas of our state lacking internet access or that have only slow or poor-quality service. We can’t stop there. The program received requests nearing $300 million. Because of the overwhelming need in our state we must continue to partner with our providers and tech innovators to expedite additional opportunities.

Zach Nunn

The governor has invited the federal government to join Iowa’s lead by requesting matching funds from COVID-19 relief funds. Her requested $222 million can be used to obtain additional federal assistance to provide better broadband service to rural Iowa communities.

Now is time to get connected. Our ZIP codes should not limit our access to high-speed internet. The opportunity to pair private dollars with wisely allocated tax dollars is an investment that yields success for all. Importantly, it enables Iowa to make a major commitment to our future by installing the broadband services across our state and ensures local buy-in from communities and providers to build an interoperable internet that creates good jobs for people living in all areas of our state. Providing quality internet access is a great long-term investment in our communities that will connect all Iowans to an even better quality of life, far into our future.

State Representative Brian Lohse (R) District 30

State Sen. Zach Nunn represents Polk and Jasper County and previously served as director of cybersecurity on the National Security Council. State Rep. Brian Lohse represents suburban and rural Polk County and serves as chair of the House Technology Committee; he authored House File 848