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Broadband Access Topic of Summit

Broadband Access Topic of Summit 

In June, Alliance & Chamber Director of Business Services, Nate Clayberg attended the annual Connect Iowa Broadband Summit.  The conference was attended by community and school administrators, economic developers, communications industry executives, representatives from John Deere and Gov. Terry Branstad.

Data was presented at the conference that shows the main barriers for broadband adoption by Iowans are perceived lack of relevance, cost, and digital literacy.  In the survey 31% of those surveyed did not see relevance to being connected by broadband, and a third of those were rural residents of the state.  Cost was most relevant to low income families with children, and the minority population saw digital literacy as their biggest barrier to adopting broadband access. It was noted that 113,000 school-age children in Iowa still do not have broadband access at home.

John Deere Manager of Spectrum Advocacy Mark Lewellen gave the keynote presentation at the conference to show the importance of wireless broadband networks expansion in rural areas for the next level of farming in the U.S.  John Deere equipment currently comes with data modems installed as standard equipment, but he notes that feature is not as valuable if it cannot connect to a network.  He said with the growing demand for more food, fuel and feed to support a growing global population, efficiencies in agriculture production are a must to support this demand.  Deere’s FarmSight technology system is being designed to help farmers become more productive and profitable with precision agriculture techniques, but connecting to mobile broadband is key to making the system run effectively for their customers.  Watch “The Future of Farming is in Sight” 

The increased broadband demand in our rural areas, especially mobile access, will be a great driver to help our rural areas sustain and possibly grow population and businesses that require digital connection to the world for business and personal access.  This plays especially well for the rural school districts, many of which are offering one to one digital learning with tablets and laptops for students to use at school and at home.  Howard-Winneshiek School District Superintendent John Carver presented to the conference on how the school is using technology to connect across their 462 square mile district, the second largest in the state.  But he faces challenges in his smaller rural communities that have limited access for not only their school buildings but the homes of their students as well.  It makes it challenging for students to complete assignments with a weaker broadband infrastructure in those areas. Carver discussed a couple interesting requests he has to the state education department in regards to their one to one digital access. Can they eliminate snow days by having teachers connect with students on those days that personnel and pupils cannot make it to their school buildings? And why is there a state law against mobile broadband hotspots on school buses? A feature that would help Howard-Winn students that spend time on buses commuting from home to school. He is awaiting a response to these questions as it relates to an ever changing digital world.

  • The Cedar Valley is leading the way in broad accessibility and acceptance. In February of 2014, Governor Branstad recognized Black Hawk County as the fourth community to become a Certified Connected Community in the state and 20th in the nation.
  • In May of 2014 Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) announced 1-Gig service to every home and every business in the city making Cedar Falls Iowa’s first ‘Gigabit City.’ Mediacom also provides gigabit fiber accessible to the entire Cedar Valley Region.
  •  Learn more at  www.connectiowa.org

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The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber is a regional economic community development corporation working to increase economic vitality and wealth in the Waterloo / Cedar Falls area and surrounding economic region. The Alliance & Chamber has approximately 800 members that represents over 40,000 employees