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Cancellations show need for broadband

Dirck Steimel

The need for robust and reliable rural broadband internet services in Iowa and around the countryside was made crystal clear this month, as colleges, school districts and other institutions took drastic steps to re­­duce the potential spread of coronavirus.

Many colleges in Iowa, including the state’s three big public universities, said they would temporarily halt face-to-face classes and move all instruction online. In its announcement, Iowa State University “strongly encouraged” students to stay home during that two-week period from March 23 to April 3.

It’s a good bet that many of those students are heading home to rural areas with spotty access to the internet. While some homes and farms in rural Iowa have access to fiber connections and high-speed internet service, there are plenty that have slow, or non-existent, service.

Problems accessing broadband internet were apparent long before the coronavirus concern. Delegates at last year’s Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Summer Policy Conference discussed and approved policies to improve rural broadband. Improving rural broadband has also been a priority for the American Farm Bureau Federation. It led an effort for legislation, now on President Trump’s desk, on broadband mapping to ensure targeted efforts to improve coverage.

As many have noted, robust broadband is no longer a luxury in rural areas. It has become a necessity to support increasingly high-tech farming, communications and, as this month’s events have shown, education.


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