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Broadband investment is key

If small towns are to attract urbanites to wide open spaces, building broadband infrastructure vital

By Guest Editorial Kim Didier, President, Professional Developers of Iowa - | Oct 13, 2020

The title of my thoughts come from a New York Times article I recently read about how residents in New York City are reassessing the circumstances of their lives in the time of Covid-19–as we all have done. However, in a matter of 2.5 months, especially New Yorkers and other large metropolitan populations, have quickly learned that space is a competitive advantage in fighting the disease. The more space you have to operate and the less density of population you contend with, the less likely the disease is able to infect at high rates. Squeeze everyone in a tight space without at least six feet between people and the virus excels. The standard for the majority of New Yorkers is communal laundry facilities which don’t allow for much social distancing.

Truly, if space is the competitive advantage in the age of Covid-19 then Iowa should stand out as an excellent option for individuals and businesses reassessing looking for more spacious places to relocate and operate. Space is something we have in abundance in Iowa. The question is can we provide that space with the necessary infrastructure that attracts businesses and individuals to choose Iowa as the outcome of their reassessment exercise.

The first order of business should be to do our own reassessment of our broadband capacity. How many Zoom meetings have you been on in the last two months where images start freezing or voices get garbled? This reassessment also needs to recognize that it is not just those areas that we call rural, many of our metropolitan communities suffer from an insufficient capacity as well. Intellectually, we have all known that broadband is an important issue but now we have lived it in a very different way from our own work at home to our kids learning from home.

Today we would not accept the fact that there are places where you can’t get sufficient electricity so why should we now accept that there are places in Iowa that don’t get sufficient broadband? Broadband is now to the 21st century as what electricity was to the 20th century–an absolute requirement for the continued functioning of our communities.

We need to find a way to guarantee excellent broadband capacity across the state now. The need is urgent not only for our current residents but if we want any chance of persuading those New Yorkers or any other large city residents and businesses that Iowa offers a great spacious alternative to their current environment. Space is our competitive advantage; we need to capitalize on it.