DES MOINES, IOWA — Access to the internet is growing more important as years go by and the state of Iowa is asking residents and service providers to help grow their broadband networks.
The Office of the Chief Information Officer released the Statewide Broadband Availability Map on Tuesday. The map is used by the federal government to allocate federal dollars to expand broadband programs in states across the country.
The map shows “blue” and “white” areas all over the state. The State’s Chief Information Officer explains what those dots represent.
“So when we look across the state what we are really trying to do is identify locations that have 100 megabits download and 20 megabits upload or less, and those locations are potentially eligible in the future,” said Matt Behrens, CIO. “Blue means that your location is likely eligible and that means that we believe that the broadband at your location may be slow enough to make your location eligible for funding in the future. So it’s not a guarantee, it’s an estimate.”
The ease of access to the internet for some in the state may leave Iowans wondering why they should participate. The funding that the state is seeking is through the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program which will spend $42.45 billion to increase high-speed internet access across all 50 states and U.S. territories. That means hundreds of millions of dollars could be allocated to Iowa to upgrade broadband infrastructure.
“We all know how important broadband is to our daily lives and making sure that all Iowans have the fastest connectivity possible begins with this map,” said Behrens.
Through the Statewide Broadband Availability Map, which is linked above, Iowans are encouraged to search for their address and see if they are eligible or ineligible for this federal grant.
“On that website you will find the map, but you’ll also find instructions for how to submit a challenge to the map. There are online videos and tutorials and when you search for your address you can actually follow a set of steps right in the map to tell us that the map is incorrect and even provide a speed test,” said Behrens.
The areas are not just rural communities that could use an upgrade, there are bigger cities in the state that could use faster internet speeds. One man who owns a computer repair shop in Winterset has been helping expand internet access for those in that rural community.
“I just found when a lot of my customers are older, and people would ask me or they’d be on the farm, they’d say ‘I wish I could get internet in my outbuilding or my barn,” said Michael Eller, the owner of Michael’s Computer Repair.
Eller used to work for big service providers in the state, but he found his passion helping those in his rural community. He wants everyone in the state to have equal access to a solid internet connection and.
“How are you going to get internet down there? How? You know,” said Eller. “And who’s to say it’s not important to go down there there to. Maybe there is gonna be a kid like me who needs it. You never know if he’s gonna end up being a computer guy or engineer or whatever. But everybody should have an opportunity to have access and, you know, learn and develop.”
Iowans have 30 days from August 2 to check the map and challenge the state’s estimate of whether they are eligible for grants or not.