- Associated Press - Monday, June 22, 2015

PERRY, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad on Monday signed a broadband expansion bill into law, the culmination of a top legislative priority for his administration that also faced some criticism from lawmakers over a grant program’s effectiveness without state funding.

Branstad signed the bill at Van Wall Equipment, a supplier in Perry.

The law creates a property tax relief program for service providers who add infrastructure for high-speed Internet, also known as broadband. Service providers say the process for adding broadband is often costly.

Branstad says better Internet access helps businesses and schools in the state.

The law includes a grant program that was promoted as another resource for service providers to offset costs. But the program’s $5 million in state dollars raised concerns from some lawmakers, who questioned the funding’s sustainability in future budget cycles. The bill eventually advanced through the legislative session without the money, and language was added to focus on federal and private funding.

That move also drew criticism, with lawmakers questioning whether the grant program would be effective without state money.

Despite those concerns, the broadband industry supported the legislation. They argued it was a step in the right direction toward expanding broadband in Iowa.

The law also designates more broadband expansion responsibilities to the office of Robert von Wolffradt, the state’s chief information officer. He stood near Branstad as the governor signed the bill into law.

Branstad made broadband expansion a legislative priority last year, but a measure with more tax incentives for service providers failed to advance.

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