CRESCO | A broadband Internet initiative continues to pick up speed in Howard County, which could serve as a pilot county for such projects, according to Superintendent John Carver of the Howard-Winneshiek Community School District.
Carver serves as co-chairman of the STEM Advisory Council’s Broadband Committee alongside Robert von Wolffradt, chief information officer for the state.
They informed Howard County Economic Development officials that the governor-appointed committee was charged with developing recommendations for lawmakers to consider during the upcoming legislative session.
Initial recommendations were publicly released on Dec. 1. The full report is accessible through the Connect Iowa organizational website at www.connectiowa.org.
“There are six proposals that went to the governor,” Carver said. “Among the proposals included incentives to providers to go into unserved and underserved areas.”
In a recent residential survey conducted through Connect Iowa, the organization found approximately 680,000 Iowa residents -- or 29 percent of adults statewide -- do not subscribe to broadband services.
“Many communities in Iowa are not using Internet and they’re not leveraging broadband to the fullest,” Carver said. “They’re content with cell phones and maybe a Facebook page, but there’s so much more that can be done with broadband for business, so that’s another one of the incentives.”
A third incentive, according to Carver, involves an effort to educate individuals and business owners about the importance of adopting high-speed Internet in order to increase digital footprints on a global scale.
“The thing that’s exciting about all of this is that there is bipartisan support,” Carver said. “Cities of the future are going to be built around regions that have the biggest broadband connectivity.”
Prior to the HCED meeting, Carver and fellow broadband proponent Howard County Supervisor Mark Kubik learned the governor is seeking a pilot county in regard to the expansion of broadband capacity.
“They’ve reached out to Howard County,” Carver said. “I’ve talked to some of the vendors, including Omnitel, and the thing that raises eyebrows is that we want to have a 1 Gig connection – that means you can upload and download information very quickly. Instantaneously.
“If we choose to do this, Howard County is in a position to become the model for the rest of the state as far as broadband adoption," he added. "What this means is Connect Iowa will come in free of charge and do an assessment of what our capacities are at this point. They’ll go to the libraries and the local telecoms, and they’ll catalog everything. They’ll put this information on an interactive map.
"With that piece in place, we can go and talk to some pretty big hitters (regarding business). As you look at Howard County and where we’re positioned, with quality of life and schools -- and all of that with a broadband connection -- that’s a huge attractor for industry.”
Howard County officials are not alone in regard to searching for a solution to the lack of high-speed Internet infrastructure.
“But really and truly, no one is moving after it,” Carver said. “We have a window of opportunity in front of us, but we’ve got to go quick.”
Carver said having the assessment done, hopefully beginning in January, will be a great opportunity for every community in Howard County.
“To bring people into the community, we’ve got to look at the Internet access capacity,” he said. “We want this county to become the hot spot for the rest of this state.”