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Bills targeting broadband service clear Iowa House

DES MOINES — The Iowa House has passed a small batch of bills about broadband service in the state. Representative Ray Sorenson of Greenfield said during House debate that the GOP lawmakers and staff who’ve been working on these issues have begun calling themselves the “broadband bros.”

“I want you to know that we aren’t done and that we will continue to work to connect every last Iowan,” Sorenson said.

One bill clarifies that state grants to local telecommunications companies for broadband projects are not considered income. Republican Representative Brian Lohse of Bondurant said that means those grants are not subject to state income taxes.

“This bill will ensure that companies are able to expand broadband with every dollar that they are provided by the state,” Lohse said.

Representative Dave Williams of Waterloo, a Democrat, estimated the bill’s value.

“This puts another $1.5 million or so into this expansion,” Williams said.

Another bill extends the state law that set up statewide rules for how cities and counties may regulate where cell towers are placed. Republican Representative Jeff Shipley of Fairfield was the only lawmaker to object, arguing cell towers may be a health hazard.

“Basically as a society we’ve placed such a emphasis on fast and cheap, we’ve totally forgotten about safety,” Shipley said.

Another bill that passed unanimously would have the Iowa DOT publicize road construction projects that dig into ground where private companies could install fiber optic cables. It’s being referred to as a “dig once” policy. Another part of that bill would create a new state program to designate Iowa communities as “broadband forward” or “telecommuter forward” zones. It would be up to the Iowa Economic Development Authority to come up for the criteria for those designations.

“This is a good bill for Iowa. I hope it helps rural communities,” said Representative Brian Meyer, a Democrat from Des Moines.

The other broadband-related bill that passed the House last week calls for a legislative study of exchange points that route traffic on the internet.


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