Lawmakers in Iowa have a approved broadband expansion legislation that has been a key part of Governor Terry Branstad’s agenda. The bills will focus on expanding broadband to the rural populations in Iowa.
Provisions in the bill will provide property tax abatements to companies that choose to install equipment that will build out local broadband infrastructure to their buildings. The measure also includes a proposed grant program to cover some of the cost of broadband infrastructure for harder to reach populations like those living in rural areas.
A standardization framework for the location, maintenance and operation of cell phone towers is also included in the legislation.
Broadband expansion has been a key policy goal for Branstad who is expected to sign the bill. In January, the governor called for the passage of his “Connect Every Acre” broadband bill in the Condition of the State address by stating, “The fabric of our state is woven together by the gravel roads and the interstate system, but in this day and age it also must be connected through access to broadband as well. This legislative session, let’s come together and pass legislation allowing rural Iowa to experience continued growth and connection to the rest of Iowa and the rest of the world.”
Rural broadband expansion has been recognized as a key policy area for governors in the midwest and great plains as well as USDA and the FCC. The bill comes as courts recently upheld a plan by the FCC to pay for rural broadband under Connect America through a reallocation of the Universal Service Fund. The FCC says changing these programs will provide more funding for rural broadband expansion throughout the US.