voted down a bill that would have allowed easier access for broadband expansion into rural communities.
Bill HF 2472 would have offered tax incentives to help companies better provide broadband internet access into underserved or unserved areas of the state. Places like
the rural communities in Iowa, where big companies may not otherwise go.
The bill was one of Governor Branstad's legislative priorities this session as part of the Connect Every Iowan Initiative. But members from
Gov. Branstad's own party voted against the bill. The votes came down 44 to 51.
A bill failing on a House vote is unusual, a rare occurrence that happens once or twice in a decade here in Iowa, according to State Representative
Chris Hall. Hall said the bipartisan support against the bill showed that it wasn't doing enough to address the issue of limited internet access
in rural communities.
Governor Branstad disagreed, calling the bill's failure a disappointment.
"We know increasing Iowans' access to broadband technology would allow for rural businesses to connect to the global marketplace," Branstad
said in a statement. "With increased access and adoption, more jobs can be created and family incomes will increase. Rather than coming together
to pass common sense legislation to increase broadband access in rural Iowa, Iowa House Democrats have turned their backs on rural Iowans and
those who are underserved," he said.
And having easy access to the internet is something a business in Moville, Iowa knows well.
"Without it, I'm not sure that our office would be able to be located in Moville, Iowa, without a broadband connection. There's just no way
we would be able to function and operate in a small town without that," said Pat Rogers, President of EGR Insurance.
Rogers said at EGR, they get their broadband internet from Western Iowa Telephone. They said for such a rural area, they get excellent internet
service from Western Iowa Telephone but others aren't so lucky.
Based out of Lawton, Iowa, Western Iowa Telephone provides broadband access through 700 square miles of the state. They said they're always looking
to expand because it's good for business and for Iowans.
"Yeah, it's critical. I mean really it's across all demographics. Whether you're Republican, whether you're Democrat, whether you're a
farmer, whether you're a businessman, whether you're retired, whether you're a four-year-old... having access to affordable reliable internet
is pretty important," said Heath Mallory, General Manager at Western Iowa Telephone.
And whether you're running a Google search, buying and selling something or maybe just catching up on Social Media, access to the internet
is becoming increasingly important in both big cities and small towns.
"We're very fortunate to have a good quality broadband provider here in the area but not all small towns have that opportunity to do that," Rogers
The bill did fail in the House on April 25 but a motion was immediately filed to reconsider it. Legislators don't have to take up the bill again
but Rep. Hall said he's hopeful something could pass and soon. That is, if legislators work hard toward strengthening the bill.