Howard County denied for Connect Iowa status

By Marcie Klomp
It didn’t come as a surprise to members of the Grow Howard County Task Force the county was not eligible for a Connect Iowa certification.

Shawn Wagner of Connect Iowa told the group on March 29, “But if you guys had the access, you’d be killing it! You guys are receiving high score after high score.” Just not where it is needed.

Howard County scored high in all areas except connectivity. “With a score of 18 out of 40, there’s nothing you can do about that, other than bringing more competition to the area. That’s not your fault.” As it is, the total score was 91 out of 120. Not enough to become a Connect Iowa community.

That doesn’t mean the group is giving up; it just needs to start looking in other directions, such as getting more companies to offer Internet service and improve the connections already in place.

Even though Wagner had to turn Howard County down, he had very encouraging words. “You guys are passionate. It’s not like this in other states, cities or communities.” He added that now the county has the assessment done, it has a better chance of getting FCC money.

Howard-WinneshiekSupt. John Carver clarified, the FCC has a billion dollars for promoting fast Internet speeds for Americans. Of that, Howard County could get $630,000 each year for 10 years.

Wagner tried to explain the importance of broadband service. “Think of the Internet as a utility. In a business, you have electricity, you have water, and you need Internet. This [assessment] is your ‘utility plan’ for the community.”
The assessment can be used for economic planning, city planning, housing plans, etc. All things important to Howard County, especially with potentially 60 new jobs opening up at LimeSprings Beef by this fall.

“What we’re doing is not for us. It’s for those four young ladies [who went to Washington, D.C. for the Borlaug unveiling] and their classmates,” Carver stated.
Howard County Economic Development Board president, Alison Holten agreed. “I’m selfish. I’m doing it for my kids, so they will stay here.” Burke said she has volunteered for years for selfish reasons as well, keeping her children and grandkids in the area.

The next meeting of the task force is tentatively set for Saturday, April 26 at 9 a.m. at NICC. Anyone with an opinion and progressive ideas is welcome to attend.

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