Over the last 50 years, many rural communities have experienced a significant decline in population. We all must work together to re-populate rural Iowa and capitalize on the strengths of rural communities to create good jobs and improve the quality of life.
In 2012, Iowa conducted a survey about internet access and the availability of broadband across Iowa. The survey found that only 71% of Iowa’s residential households have adopted broadband. It also showed that the adoption rate was lower for low-income households (46%), rural households (66%), and African-American households (56%).
With today’s rapidly changing economy, we know broadband and internet access have become an essential part of our daily lives. It’s also become a critical issue for small businesses that need to connect with customers around the globe. Statistics also show that students with access to broadband in their homes are 6-8% more likely to graduate.
Expanding access to broadband and Wi-Fi for homes, schools, and businesses in under-served and un-served areas may not only be beneficial to students and small businesses but also access to quality health care.
With rural Iowa facing a shortage of physicians and other health care professionals, many Iowans have difficulty accessing specialty care. More steps need to be taken to increase access to health care for rural Iowans directly or through technology.
We know there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach that works everywhere to connect more Iowans to broadband. When the legislature convenes in 2015, we’ll have to work together and review recommendations from an advisory council to craft a flexible broadband plan that doesn’t leave any community, school, or business behind.
Other ways to strengthen our rural areas include: ensuring first time farmers have the resources and support to be successful; making sure rural communities under 20,000 people get their share of state resources and have access to education and job training so every child has the opportunity to learn; repairing Iowa’s crumbling infrastructure, including roads and bridges; and encouraging more production and consumption of locally grown foods.