- Associated Press - Monday, February 3, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa lawmakers discussed legislation Monday that would provide incentives for improving broadband Internet technology access in the state.

A Senate subcommittee reviewed the bill, and Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, said legislators are planning more subcommittee hearings before moving the bill forward.

Under the proposal in the Senate, companies that invest in broadband infrastructure could receive breaks on property and income taxes. In addition, the bill would establish a loan fund for businesses making broadband investments. The overall cost of this legislation is not yet known.

Gov. Terry Branstad has made broadband expansion a key focus for this legislative session. But his legislative plan only includes a property tax exemption. A legislative aide to the governor told senators that Branstad is pleased that they have taken up the issue.

“The governor’s office is very encouraged by the similarities,” said Adam Gregg.

Legislators in the Iowa House are also holding subcommittee hearings on a broadband proposal. Sodders said he expects conversations between lawmakers from both chambers, so they can move forward with something similar. There is “agreement on all sides that we need to do something,” he said.

Branstad has said the state must improve broadband access, particularly in rural areas, arguing that this could spur economic development through new business creation.

Iowa ranks 11th out of 12 Midwestern states in the TechNet State Broadband Index. The index ranks states based on household broadband adoption rates, network speeds available and the number of jobs that benefit from broadband technology.