The legislature is again this year considering proposals to improve the access and speed of broadband Internet service across the state of Iowa. The Governor’s most recent proposal picks up from the bill under consideration last year, with a few differences. The new bill attempts to incentivize broadband expansion in areas of Iowa where Internet speeds are below 25 megabits per second of download speed and three megabits per second of upload speed.
This bill offers property tax incentives for companies to invest in building their network infrastructure. Internet providers will be able to apply to the state’s Chief Information Officer for a grant and a three-year property tax exemption for new investments in underserved areas of Iowa. It also would require local governments to either approve or deny applications for broadband infrastructure within 60 days of their submission.
Unlike last year’s proposal, the Governor’s “Connect Every Acre” proposal does not include a process for private companies to lease bandwidth from the Iowa Communications Network (ICN). It also does not include provisions governing the siting of cellular towers, another contentious issue from last year.
I have been assigned to work a bill that proposes to change the regulatory structure of Voice Over Internet Protocol connections (VOIP). The Iowa Utilities Board currently has regulatory authority over these connections in the same manner as traditional landline phone service. This bill attempts to modernize our laws on Internet traffic, so that VOIP service would be subject to the same regulation as wireless or other Internet-only connections.
With each of these legislative proposals, I want to work on improved access to high-speed Internet, greater reliability and lower costs as consumers. I am hopeful that whatever we do this year will fit inside those goals.