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Neighbors Growing Together | May 25, 2018

Loebsack visits MP, talks rural broadband issues

Apr 23, 2018
Photo by: Karyn Spory By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant NewsWhether it’s business, schools or Netflix, the world, quite literally, runs on the internet. That’s why U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) has been working to bring broadband into rural areas. The Congressman has been working to bring rural areas up to speed with comprehensive data coverage since he was first elected to office in 2006. “It’s become more important over the years as we’ve become more dependent, as people, on the internet.” In order for rural areas to survive, internet access is imperative, he told a group of stakeholders during a roundtable discussion at Alliant Energy on Friday, April 20. Wesley Brooks, vice president for student development at Iowa Wesleyan University, said the internet speed on campus is a concern. Brooks said not only does it make it difficult as learning has moved into the 21st Century and technology is used in every classroom, but it also makes it difficult to retain the students after graduation. “We draw a vast majority of our student body from urban environments, whether it be Chicago, St. Louis or Kansas City,” he said. “What we’re really trying to help do here is keep young talent in Southeast Iowa. This generation, they are digital everything. The idea if we’re going to have our talented people join our community for school stay in Southeast Iowa or get into the rural communities, this is a major issue. Everything from Netflix to social media, if they didn’t have the capability to do that it would be a huge deterrent to stay here.” Executive Vice President of the Mt. Pleasant Chamber Alliance Kristi Ray added that when it comes to economic development, “Companies (looking to move) used to ask what our internet capabilities were. They don’t any more. It’s expected.”Carla McNamee, vice president and general manager of Hearth & Home Technologies, said internet access is a struggle in the home. “We have four kids with Macbooks who have to have the internet for homework. It’s a small car payment,” she said of internet costs in rural Iowa.Susie Stalder, Farmers and Merchants Mutual, a telecommunications company in Wayland, said her company is ready to bring broadband throughout Southeast Iowa, they just need the capital. “From the provider’s position, it really comes down to funding,” said Stalder. “We’re ready to roll - capital is what we lack.”Stalder says competing with large companies for federal funds can be difficult. “We’re a small company so we have to do very small pieces at a time. It’s kind of a race these things,” she said about competing for federal funding. “The one with the most fiber in the ground wins, but when you can only do a section at a time, it feels like you’re behind the eight ball.”Stalder said Farmers and Merchants, which is one of serveral independent telecommunication companies in the area, says the sky’s the limit with technology available, it’s just a matter of being able to afford to lay all of the necessary fiber down. Farmers and Merchants uses other technology besides fiber, including line of sight, which is a point to point wireless internet antenna, which is used to beam wireless internet from one location to another. Stalder said this is a great option, except Iowa isn’t quite as flat as everyone believes and makes the technology unusable in some areas. Loebsack did come with some good news to the roundtable discussion. His bill, The Rural Wireless Access Act was signed into law by President Donald Trump. The bill requires the Federal Communications Commission to develop new, comprehensive maps of data availability. Loebsack said the information must be collected consistantly across the U.S. and the maps must also indicate the speed tiers available in rural areas and describe the performance characteristics of commercial mobile service or commercial mobile data service in geographic locations across the nation. Loebsack said fully understanding what the data coverage area is like is the first step toward bringing broadband into rural areas. Loebsack continued his roundtable discussions in Keokuk and West Burlington on Friday.

By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News

 

Whether it’s business, schools or Netflix, the world, quite literally, runs on the internet. That’s why U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) has been working to bring broadband into rural areas.

The Congressman has been working to bring rural areas up to speed with comprehensive data coverage since he was first elected to office in 2006. “It’s become more important over the years as we’ve become more dependent, as people, on the internet.”

In order for rural areas to survive, internet access is imperative, he told a group of stakeholders during a roundtable discussion at Alliant Energy on Friday, April 20. Wesley Brooks, vice president for student development at Iowa Wesleyan University, said the internet speed on campus is a concern. Brooks said not only does it make it difficult as learning has moved into the 21st Century and technology is used in every classroom, but it also makes it difficult to retain the students after graduation. “We draw a vast majority of our student body from urban environments, whether it be Chicago, St. Louis or Kansas City,” he said. “What we’re really trying to help do here is keep young talent in Southeast Iowa. This generation, they are digital everything. The idea if we’re going to have our talented people join our community for school stay in Southeast Iowa or get into the rural communities, this is a major issue. Everything from Netflix to social media, if they didn’t have the capability to do that it would be a huge deterrent to stay here.”

Executive Vice President of the Mt. Pleasant Chamber Alliance Kristi Ray added that when it comes to economic development, “Companies (looking to move) used to ask what our internet capabilities were. They don’t any more. It’s expected.”

Carla McNamee, vice president and general manager of Hearth & Home Technologies, said internet access is a struggle in the home. “We have four kids with Macbooks who have to have the internet for homework. It’s a small car payment,” she said of internet costs in rural Iowa.

Susie Stalder, Farmers and Merchants Mutual, a telecommunications company in Wayland, said her company is ready to bring broadband throughout Southeast Iowa, they just need the capital. “From the provider’s position, it really comes down to funding,” said Stalder. “We’re ready to roll - capital is what we lack.”

Stalder says competing with large companies for federal funds can be difficult. “We’re a small company so we have to do very small pieces at a time. It’s kind of a race these things,” she said about competing for federal funding. “The one with the most fiber in the ground wins, but when you can only do a section at a time, it feels like you’re behind the eight ball.”

Stalder said Farmers and Merchants, which is one of serveral independent telecommunication companies in the area, says the sky’s the limit with technology available, it’s just a matter of being able to afford to lay all of the necessary fiber down.

Farmers and Merchants uses other technology besides fiber, including line of sight, which is a point to point wireless internet antenna, which is used to beam wireless internet from one location to another. Stalder said this is a great option, except Iowa isn’t quite as flat as everyone believes and makes the technology unusable in some areas.

Loebsack did come with some good news to the roundtable discussion. His bill, The Rural Wireless Access Act was signed into law by President Donald Trump. The bill requires the Federal Communications Commission to develop new, comprehensive maps of data availability. Loebsack said the information must be collected consistantly across the U.S. and the maps must also indicate the speed tiers available in rural areas and describe the performance characteristics of commercial mobile service or commercial mobile data service in geographic locations across the nation. Loebsack said fully understanding what the data coverage area is like is the first step toward bringing broadband into rural areas.

Loebsack continued his roundtable discussions in Keokuk and West Burlington on Friday.

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