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Chair's Column: Broadband Access is Critical to Region's Growth

Broadband Access in 2021

April 29, 2021

Having strong and affordable access to broadband is critically important to help our community do business globally and ensure that all in our community have equal opportunity. Broadband is also important to attract and retain businesses and residents, and help existing businesses grow and be successful. As one of its 2021 Strategic Priorities, the Greater Des Moines Partnership is taking a proactive, regional approach and working closely with our state and federal elected officials to ensure all parts of our region have affordable access to broadband.

Central Iowa Broadband Internet Survey

The Partnership recently launched the Central Iowa Broadband Internet Survey for 11 counties in the region, including a mix of urban, suburban and rural areas. The purpose of The Survey is to measure broadband internet availability and identify areas that do not currently meet consumer needs and expectations. Residents and businesses in the following counties are encouraged to take the survey: Adair, Dallas, Guthrie, Jasper, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Polk, Poweshiek, Story and Warren.

This Survey will help policymakers and providers better understand where gaps exist, providing them with data and opportunities to consider additional funding mechanisms.

The pandemic and era of social distancing helped shine a light on the importance of affordable and accessible broadband. This is not just a nice thing to have, but a necessity for our region to reach its full potential in the 21st Century. In addition to the Broadband Internet Survey that will provide us with a clearer picture of the landscape, there are already a number of efforts underway in our region and state to address this, including recently announced projects in Ankeny, Clive, Johnston, Urbandale and West Des Moines.

Bridging the Digital Divide

This complements legislative efforts that are underway. Bridging the digital divide is one of the featured priorities in The Partnership’s State Legislative Agenda. It is also a priority of Governor Kim Reynolds, who allocated $50 million in CARES Act funds to the Empower Rural Iowa broadband grant program in 2020 and an additional $15 million in 2021. At that time, there was a $884,000 grant made to Omnitel Communications for a broadband expansion project in rural Madison and Warren Counties. With both Governor Reynolds and the Iowa Legislature proposing hundreds of millions of dollars for funding for broadband in the coming years, final appropriations will be determined in the final weeks of the legislative session. Broadband is also part of The Partnership’s federal policy efforts and included in the White House American Jobs Plan, which proposes an investment of $100 billion to bring universal, reliable, high-speed and affordable coverage to every family in America.

As we continue to work to make affordable broadband accessible to all in our region, you can take an immediate step to help. Please consider taking the Central Iowa Broadband Internet Survey. The Survey will be open through Friday, May 14. There are two separate survey links: one for residential households and one for businesses. We encourage everyone to take the residential household survey, and we encourage leaders of businesses and organizations to take the business survey.

Learn more and take the Broadband Internet Survey at centraliowabroadbandsurvey.com.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is the economic and community development organization that serves Greater Des Moines (DSM), Iowa. Together with 24 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce, more than 6,500 Regional Business Members and more than 365 Investors, The Partnership drives economic growth with one voice, one mission and as one region. Through innovation, strategic planning and global collaboration, The Partnership grows opportunity, helps create jobs and promotes DSM as the best place to build a business, a career and a future. Learn more at DSMpartnership.com.

Fred Buie

Fred Buie is president of Keystone Electrical Manufacturing Company and serves as the Greater Des Moines Partnership's 2021 board chair.