Today, technology drives every aspect of our lives.
Farmers use technology to increase yields on smaller footprints, maximize conservation practices and reimagine animal care practices. Business owners, entrepreneurs, startups, and manufacturers leverage technology to transform their operations. Teachers and their students connect to new concepts and interact with experts via online learning.
Additionally, technology in health care improves our lives in amazing ways. Iowans can participate in two-way telemedicine sessions and consult with specialists practically anywhere in the world. Robot-assisted surgery is more precise and minimally invasive.
All of these things reinforce why Iowa must have the best high-speed broadband infrastructure in order to compete in a disruptive digital economy and ensure our well-being.
That’s part of the vision behind the Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa initiative, which I unveiled in my Condition of the State Address. This initiative focuses on investing, growing and connecting small towns and communities.
Last month, I signed the Empower Rural Iowa Act into law after it was unanimously passed by lawmakers this session. Within this milestone piece of legislation, the first wave of funding for improving our broadband infrastructure was included.
While I initially called for $20 million over the next two years to accelerate broadband expansion and leverage an additional $120 million in private investment for high-speed Internet, the Legislature provided $5 million.
While this is a good start, we need to do more.
Through our Connect Every Iowan - Broadband Grants Program, we awarded $1.3 million for companies setting up high-speed Internet in rural communities like Adair, Wilton and Carroll. These state grants leveraged over $11 million in investment from providers across the state.
There are many more projects just like these which demonstrate the need for lawmakers to complete the total investment that I called for earlier this year.
Additionally, because of the Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa Initiative and our comprehensive plan for broadband internet expansion, we opened the door for federal funds that could have gone to fund projects in other states.
For example, the United States Department of Agriculture has provided Iowa companies with funding through the “ReConnect” Grant Program. Their attention on Iowa is a direct result of our statewide broadband strategy.
Providing high-speed Internet connectivity to every town, county or region of our state won’t happen overnight.
It requires a thoughtful approach to aligning our efforts, utilizing public-private and considering federal resources. Yet, the end result is a game changer for our future generations.
Having high-speed broadband will make Iowa a hub for innovation and an economic powerhouse. It’s vital for keeping our young people and attracting others to Iowa.
Connecting our rural communities is fundamental to all aspects of growth and prosperity. By continuing to invest in our broadband infrastructure, Iowa will be extremely well-positioned for the disruptive 21st century economy.
Kim Reynolds, a Republican, is governor of Iowa.