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Legislators consider speed standards for state broadband grants

DES MOINES — Iowa lawmakers are considering what may be required of companies applying for state money to extend broadband service to areas where it’s not available. Governor Reynolds has called for $450 million in grants over three years, but only for companies offering download and upload speeds of 100 megabits per second.

Doug Struyk, a lobbyist for Mediacom, said during a Senate subcommittee hearing that Mediacom’s speeds fall below that standard, so the company wouldn’t be able to get state grants to extend its fiber network.

“An additional piece, Mediacom has acquired portions of spectrum…in 33 counties to be able to provide fixed wireless. We run a wire into the town. We go up to a high point, say the grain elevator and then we throw a signal out between 7-10 miles…which hits antennas on the homes and provides fixed wireless to those,” he said. “It’s a very rapid deployment. We don’t have to run fiber to the home. It’s a much less expensive way of providing it.”

Tim Fencl, general manager of the Danville Mutual Telephone Company, aid it’s less expensive to build a higher speed broadband network now, rather than build a lower speed network that has to be upgraded several times.

“100 by 100 (megabits per second) is critical for any business, homeowner, students and more so now that we’re doing Zoom and those types of things,” Fencl said.

The Iowa Business Council, the Iowa Chamber Alliance and other development groups support setting the higher internet speed standard for state broadband grants.

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