Hawarden, Iowa — Local, state and federal officials are celebrating the completion of a major upgrade to internet access in parts of rural northwest Iowa.
A 13-million dollar project added 422 miles of fiber optics between several communities, including Hawarden and Akron. The project was made possible with a grant of more than 7-million dollars from the USDA, where Bette Brand is Deputy Undersecretary for Rural Development.
(As above) “All of America needs robust, modern infrastructure to thrive and this is a necessity, not an amenity,” Brand says, “and this pandemic only highlighted the digital divide even more.”
Brand joined Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg and others in Hawarden on Wednesday, seeing the results of the upgrade first-hand. Brand says completion of the project was vital.
(As above) “To be more productive, to access better opportunities and to keep up with the rest of the world, every American household needs to access high speed broadband,” Brand says.
Lieutenant Governor Gregg announced that Governor Kim Reynolds is designating 50-million dollars in CARES Act money to increase access to high speed broadband in rural Iowa. Gregg says it’s an accelerated grant program, so there will be a higher match and that will allow the funds to go a long way. Brand applauds that effort.
(As above) “There are 21-million Americans without broadband high speed access and 80% of those are in rural communities,” Brand says. “Our focus is on those that have no access and building on that so rural communities really need to be the center of our attention in getting this done.”
Doug Boone, CEO of Premiere Communications in Sioux Center, says this matches with his company’s vision and his hope is to bring this connectivity to Lyon County soon. Boone says despite the five-month turnaround on the project, it didn’t come without its challenges.
(As above) “The difficult part we had with the Haywarden-Akron exchanges in particular was that it was just sparsely populated and we needed to find a way to get some support to help us be able to afford to make that investment,” Boone says.
In another three to four months, he says most of the 12-hundred customers will be converted and will be receiving high speed broadband internet service. The fiber optics also reach into parts of Union and Lincoln counties in South Dakota.