Broadband internet is one of the few issues that garner bipartisan support, which is good news for Iowa but also highlights the state’s struggles in that sector.
Iowa has the second-slowest internet speeds in the country trailing only Alaska. The Hawkeye State also ranks as the 45th best-connected state.
Despite fairly even broadband coverage in the state, the average download speed in Iowa is 78.9 megabytes per second (Mbps), according to BroadbandNow, a data company that researches broadband in America. Generally, 100 Mbps is considered fast internet because it can support more activity at once, so households with multiple people on devices wouldn’t have service interrupted, as long as no one is doing anything demanding.
The report notes that some small towns don’t even have access to download speeds of 25 Mbps.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires that broadband internet have a minimum download speed of 25 Mbps. Anything less than that isn’t considered broadband, which is basically defined as an internet connection able to transmit a wide bandwidth of data.
Prices also factor into internet quality. Monthly internet prices in Iowa are generally higher than in other states. Nationally, an average of 51.5% of people have access to plans costing $60 or less per month. In Iowa, that average is 18.5%.
There are several federal and state initiatives to improve broadband access. Broadband expansion is part of both infrastructure bills being debated in Congress, and it was included in the American Rescue Plan, which passed in March.
Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law in April that created a system of grants for service providers to do different projects to improve everything from upload speeds to improving service in underserved areas as part of the Empower Rural Iowa program.
Recipients of those grants were announced in September and the state plans to have another round of grants.
by Nikoel Hytrek