Unlike many communities which aspire toward Connected certified status, powerful broadband infrastructure was already in place in Indianola, Iowa’s first Connected community, certified in February 2013. Collaborative city-wide initiatives created state-of-the-art broadband networks, yet, after years of negotiation and meticulous arrangement, many of the resources available were going unnoticed and unused by residents and businesses. Partnering with Connect Iowa, Indianola was able to measure the access in the area, create groundbreaking new programs and partnerships, and give the innovative infrastructure they had built the recognition it deserved.
Indianola Municipal Utilities (IMU) manages the largest locally owned fiber network in the state, supplying Indianola with the best broadband technology to date and the fastest speeds. Working with local service provider Mahaska Communications Group (MCG), residents and businesses gained access to the network, giving MCG claim to “Gigabit Internet,” or 1000 Mb. Gigabit internet gives users movie downloads in seconds, video streaming without buffering, and instantaneous document and page loads. The fiber network through IMU with access through MCG created a pivotal tool for libraries, schools, businesses, and residents in the coverage area, yet many lacked either the knowledge of the network, knowledge of how to use it, or devices to enable use to its fullest potential.
Work with Connect Iowa began with a survey of the infrastructure in the area, as well as availability and use.
“We learned about how much we had and how we can utilize that and promote that throughout the community,” said Chelle Klootwyk, Community Champion for Indianola. The broadband survey conducted through the program showed what service was available and to what regions of the community. Multiple providers and high speeds were available inside the city; however, the survey also showed that rural areas and areas just outside the city were much more limited. The Technology Action Plan was built to encourage residents to use the resources available, promote the state-of-the-art network to usher in outside opportunities, give schools a way to leverage technology in education and expand availability to rural areas. IMU, MCG, Indianola credit unions, Simpson College, and other public and private enterprises have helped to form the IMU Partners Program, which gives access to media and IT services such as cloud storage, virtualization, media content delivery, and mobile platforms. The Partners Program not only provides an ideal engine for using and accessing the fiber network commercially but also keeps primary commercial enterprises connected. The Partners Program also introduces talented IT students to entrepreneurs and new ventures through the EMERGE@Simpson College mentoring and collaboration program, promoting innovation, and job creation.
Connected community certification means the completion of the Technology Action Plan, but it does not signify the end of the community’s development through broadband. Expanding technology to reach rural areas is an ongoing effort. For example, the e-cycling program to recycle or refurbish electronics is under consideration, and Indianola high school students are now learning interactively through the use of personal computing devices. As Indianola continues to use and promote their broadband network, they are sure to see new ventures and exciting innovations.
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