The state of Iowa has 99 counties in 12 of which, residents are completely underserved in terms of internet connectivity.  That amounts to 300,000 people or about 11% of Iowans who are being left off the information superhighway.  In order to get these residents online The Iowa Communications Network along with six other groups are going to be sharing in $ 90.1 million.  These funds are meant to create several hundred to several thousand jobs upfront by expanding broadband service throughout the state. 

 

In all, there are 66 Recovery Act broadband projects in the works that will not only create upfront jobs, but also help to spur economic growth by bringing internet service to regions that have previously been bypassed.  Research has consistently shown that communities that receive internet access see an improvement in education and job creation thanks to new opportunities. 

 

Out of the funds available, the Iowa Communications Network is expected to get a $ 16.2 million grant along with an additional $ 7.6 million to upgrade 3,000 miles of networked coverage.  These new upgrade will allow for 10 Gbps in each of Iowa’s 99 counties.  In addition, the money will go toward to an upgrade of high speed connections in thousands of community institutions.  Overall, the ICN expects to add 100 new jobs in order to get the work done. 

 

Many other companies are also benefiting from the federal funds.  For example, the Iowa Health System will use several million dollars in order to upgrade its existing fiber optic network.  This network connects more then 200 health care facilities throughout the state.  With the funds, an additional 1.7 million people will have access to improved care.  In addition, the funds will allow for approximately 100 new jobs.  Other companies that are benefiting from the funds include Farmer’s Telephone Company of Riceville, Grand River Mutual Telephone Corporation, Breda Telephone Corporation and Grand River Mutual Telephone Corporation. 

 

Governmental officials call the funds an investment in the future of Iowa.  They also comment that in the wake of the recession it is more important than ever to provide businesses and homes with the tools necessary to compete in a global marketplace. 

 

However, while most welcome the funds with open arms, there are some that believe the plan to connect rural Iowa to the internet may not be such a good thing.  This is because some of the money to be used in the broadband expansion comes from the Universal Service Fund which gets its money from a small fee that every resident and business pays on its phone bill.  As a result, the money is used to subsidize telephone companies that service rural and underserved regions.  The Obama administration wants to use some of those funds to bridge the rural divide and bring broadband into rural regions.  While many telephone companies approve of the move, they worry about being forgotten.  Others are worried about wastefulness and other expenditures that may not be needed will eat into the overall budget.  As a result, many officials will continue to keep a close eye on the project and how the money is allocated. 

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