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GOP lawmakers agree on $100 million for broadband expansion grants

DES MOINES — Legislators have settled on providing $100 million worth of state grants to companies that expand broadband service in Iowa. Democrats, led by Representative Chris Hall of Sioux City, suggested using federal pandemic relief money rather than state tax dollars for those grants.

“We know that the use of those funds toward broadband expansion is accepted,” Hall said, “and that it is one of the best ways we can keep our General Fund dollars also flexible.”

But Representative John Landon of Ankeny said the Republican majorities in the House and Senate have decided state money will be used.

“With that federal money comes a lot of federal regulations and those regulations have not been issued yet, ” Landon said. “…It’s just not smart budgeting at this time.”

Republican Governor Kim Reynolds asked lawmakers to appropriate $150 million in each of the next three years to expand access to high speed internet across the state. The House has taken an initial vote on $100 million, in the next state budgeting year only.

The legislature approved a separate bill with the rules for the grant program. It would ensure most of the money goes toward establishing internet service with download and upload speeds of at least 100 megabits per second.

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