Des Moines, Iowa — Governor Reynolds has signed a budget bill that includes 100 million dollars for state grants to companies that extend broadband to areas of the state that don’t have service — or to significantly improve slow broadband speeds in other areas.
Reynolds says there’s a glaring need. She says the bill for this money and another bill that outlines grant specifications, address it.
The move got bipartisan support in the legislature. However, Representative Chris Hall, a Democrat from Sioux City, says the state COULD have used 100 million in FEDERAL pandemic relief money rather than state tax dollars.
Governor Reynolds had asked legislators for 150 million dollars and she plans to use 50 million in pandemic relief money along with 100 million in state money to reach that goal. Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls unsuccessfully sought to create a new state commission, similar to the Iowa Transportation Commission, to review grant applications.
Republicans say the state’s Office of the Chief Information Officer has handled previous rounds of broadband expansion grants and it makes sense to keep that office in charge of this next round of funding. Reynolds plans to ask the 2022 Iowa legislature to provide an additional $300 million in state funding for the program in each of the next two years.