Linking up in Iowa

Access to broadband technology is a key to ensuring future economic growth in even the most rural places in Iowa, according to Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.

“I believe that connectivity is the greatest equalizer in Iowa,” Reynolds said Thursday in Fort Dodge. “That is what will help us preserve rural Iowa, keep us competitive and encourage economic growth.”

“That is also why we are striving to make Iowa the most connected state in the U.S.,” she added.

Reynolds spoke to about 45 people attending the Iowa LinkedUp Forum at Iowa Central Community College.

For the business community, the importance of Internet access can be summed up by one fact, according to the lieutenant governor. She said Iowa companies made $2.9 billion worth of online sales in one year. But, she added, 50 percent of the state’s companies do not have a web site.

Improvements, Reynolds said, are needed in the areas of household adoption of broadband service and network speed.

She said a committee has recently presented recommendations on improving broadband service in the state to Gov. Terry Branstad and herself.

Those recommendations include:

Financial incentives to provide for broadband buildout.

Regulatory reforms to remove barriers to broadband expansion.

Allowing private providers to access unused Iowa Communications Network bandwidth.

Support for digital literacy programs.

Streamlining responsibility for statewide broadband issues.

Reynolds said she and Branstad will consider those recommendations as they prepare a proposed 2014-2015 budget.

Early in her remarks, the lieutenant governor complimented local officials on their teamwork on recent economic development initiatives. She said the Fort Dodge and Webster County governments have shown how “to really effectively collaborate, communicate and cooperate.”