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Broadband Inventory in Rural Iowa

Connected Nation assesses counties, cities, and municipalities based on broadband access, adoption, and use in the area. This includes the broadband speeds available to businesses and residents, WiFi access areas, public computers, digital learning opportunities, and other assessment criteria based on goals set by the Federal Communications Commission. After completing the survey, some areas find that they do not have the scores needed to be Connected certified, though this detailed insight into broadband resources paves the way for future development. Jackson County, Iowa, took part in the survey and, though access metrics did not meet the necessary scores for certification through Connected Nation’s Connected Community Engagement Program, the county learned about their technology strengths and ways to strengthen broadband in the community.

As a widely rural community, Jackson County does not have the population density to make widespread access competitive for most Internet Service Providers (ISPs). However, county leaders understood the need to survey the infrastructure available and reinforce public resources for residents and businesses.

“Online sales and service is one of the most notable trends in the U.S. economy,” said Nicolas Hockenberry, Assistant Director of the Jackson County Economic Alliance (JCEA). “Twenty billion dollars of revenue come from online sales in Iowa annually, and $7 billion of that is from rural Iowa’s online sales. Whether a business or industry is selling their products or services online, or utilizing broadband in their production, it is undeniable that broadband permeates the twenty-first century economy.”

The JCEA sought to make online sales more available to their own rural businesses by increasing broadband awareness and digital literacy training through local libraries, schools, and community colleges. “The importance of broadband business training is centered around the growing need to market and sell via the Internet,” said Hockenberry. “On top of the marketing and marketplace emphasis, broadband services and IT services can offer more efficiencies and productivity for today’s businesses.”

Through the assessment, Jackson County identified many public services and resources available in the community. Public libraries in the area offer 36 public computers, one-on-one computer assistance, and employment services.

“To the broader community, it is important to have that baseline information of broadband opportunities available to all residents. Employers need employees who can communicate effectively across all means of communication,” said Hockenberry. “Familiarity with the Internet becomes more and more important as manufacturing utilizes broadband and even more of those products being produced are a part of ‘the internet of things.’”

In the future, Jackson County plans to increase the awareness of broadband services available and expand the use of broadband among businesses. See how other communities across the nation are using their broadband resources to grow their communities online through the Connected Community Engagement Program.