West Des Moines broadband plan shows how Iowa is demonstrating innovation again

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Iowans are used to forging their own path when it comes to broadband. The state is already home to more municipal broadband networks than nearly any other state, and four more are under construction. When the private sector has failed to provide high-quality Internet service at an affordable price, time and again, Iowa’s local cities have stepped up to build their own networks.

Across Iowa and much of the US, most municipal broadband networks were built by cities that already have municipal electricity departments that provide a road map for the construction and financing of broadband. West Des Moines does not have municipal electricity, but it does have an electrifying new model. After engaging with local businesses, West Des Moines’s city leaders decided to place conduit — tubes — underground to make it easier for private Internet companies to expand access and connect facilities more rapidly without digging. Google Fiber took notice of West Des Moines’ plans and brokered a contract where it would help pay for the system and use it to bring real broadband competition to residents and businesses. To work out the kinks, Google gets a short period of somewhat exclusive access before it is opened to other providers.

If we want investment in higher-quality broadband networks and real choices in providers, we must support the efforts of West Des Moines and encourage our local leaders to investigate them. 

[Christopher Mitchell is director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Minneapolis.]

West Des Moines broadband plan shows how Iowa is demonstrating innovation again