On Wednesday, June 22, Governor Branstad signed into law a bill addressing one of his key legislative priorities of the last two years - the “Connect Every Acre” bill. House File 655
encourages the expansion of high-speed broadband internet. IAMU has been generally supportive of broadband expansion in the state and was registered in support of the Governor’s broadband bill.
Most of the policy included in the bill is to promote expansion of broadband infrastructure in targeted service areas. A “targeted service area” is defined as a United States census block within which no communications service provider offers broadband service at or above 25 megabits per second of download speed and three megabits per second upload speed.
The state’s Chief Information Officer is given the duties to implement the various portions of the Act, including adopting rules and procedures to determine whether an area meets the definition of “targeted service area” and to administer the broadband grant program and the fiberoptic network conduit installation program.
The broadband grant program will provide for grants to assist communication services providers to reduce or eliminate targeted services areas throughout the state. Grants are limited to a maximum of 15% of the service providers project cost. There was NO money appropriated for the grant program during the legislative session. However, once the grant program receives funding the office is to award grants on a competitive basis based on the following:
- The relative need for broadband infrastructure in the area and the existing broadband service speeds.
- The percentage of the homes, farms, schools, and businesses in the targeted service area that will be provided access to broadband service.
- The geographic diversity of the project areas of all the applicants.
- The economic impact of the project to the area.
- The applicant's total proposed budget for the project, including the amount or percentage of local match, if any.
- Other factors the office deems relevant.The purpose of the new fiberoptic network conduit installation program is to provide for the installation of fiberoptic network conduit where it doesn’t presently exist. The CIO is to ensure that providers have the opportunity to lay of install fiberoptic network conduit wherever a state-funded construction project involves trenching, boring a bridge, roadway or opening of the ground, or alongside any state-owned infrastructure.
The Act requires political subdivisions with permitting authority to approve, approve with modification or disapprove nonwireless broadband permits within 60 business days. If no action is taken within 60 days, the permit is deemed approved.
A 100% property tax exemption for 10 years is provided in the bill in an amount equal to the actual value added by installation of the broadband infrastructure. The exemption only applies to infrastructure built between July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2020 in targeted service areas.
The bill also included the cell tower siting provisions which will be discussed in next weeks Informer.