Science & Technology
Loebsack Applauds Move to Make Broadband Construction Faster and Cheaper PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Joe Hand   
Friday, 15 June 2012 08:02

Calls on FCC to Support Rural Broadband

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement regarding the announcement that President Obama will make broadband construction along Federal roadways cheaper and more efficient.

“The future of rural development in Iowa and across the country depends, in large part, on the access to internet and specifically broadband.  I have met with many small businesses, farmers, and rural telecommunication companies who have told me the importance of expanding high speed internet access to rural areas.  This is critical to rural economic development, job growth, businesses, farmers, and families.

“While I applaud today’s announcement, I also call on the Federal Communications Commission to commit to expanding broadband for all Iowans by supporting broadband growth in rural communities so that this critical economic development tool is available for all Iowans, regardless of where they live.”

Specifically, the announcement will ensure that agencies charged with managing Federal properties and roads take specific steps to adopt a uniform approach for allowing broadband carriers to build networks on and through those assets and speed the delivery of connectivity to communities, businesses, and schools.


What to Do if Your Site Needs Surgery PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Monday, 11 June 2012 08:50
By: Joe Thomas of Left Brain Digital

... So the guy stands there with his mouth agape and says, "But Doc, why do you have to operate on my foot? The splinter is in my finger!"

Why am I leading off with a punch line? Because it applies to about 80 percent of people who can’t figure out why their website doesn’t “work.”

Pretend your website is the patient in my half-a-joke. Now toss in a "web guru" as the doctor. There are two main reasons why you’ve gotten surgery on a foot when a finger was the problem.

1. You didn’t correctly explain the symptoms. If your product or book is not selling from your website, don't tell the doctor you don't like the colors. Or that you need more Flying Thingies on the page. Tell the doctor that your product is not selling from your website.

Some people consult with their sister-in-law, best friend and lawn boy before seeking the help of a professional. Or, they guess at the cause of the problem themselves. When they finally consult with a professional, they tell him or her what they want: Use blue not red, make that picture bigger, add a joke of the day. For the right diagnosis, just tell the doctor, “The site’s not selling” and let him or her figure out why.

2. There are a lot of quack doctors out there! Let's be honest, a surgeon makes his living performing surgeries, and a web guru makes his living performing guru work on web sites. The moral? Without patients and web projects, the surgeon and the web guru go on unemployment.

In all aspects of business, and especially Internet marketing, some people may say whatever it takes to sell you on “surgery.” Proceed with caution! Before you hire someone to develop, design or "fix" your site, get referrals. Ask people you trust for recommendations.

Ask the “doctor” questions. If he or she can't take the time to explain every procedure, find someone who will. You need to understand the suggestions – and the reasons for them. Also, be warned there is no Standard Pricing Guide. My best advice is to avoid being sucked into the cheapest deal you can find, or being fooled by the "we are the best so we charge the most" designers.

If you're not getting the results you need from your site, ask yourself a few questions:

  • How does your site stack up against your competition? We'll assume you already have a website ... Whether you're an author, manufacturer, business or blogger, you have competition. Surf around and take a LOOK at the other guy’s site. How does his LOOK compare to yours? We're not talking about what the site says, just the overall aesthetics. Does yours look as good, or better?
  • When visitors open your site, do they know what you're selling? Obviously, you know your product or service, but is it plainly visible to visitors? Is the information your visitors are looking for easy to find and understand? Are the "calls to action," such as “sign the petition,” “read the blog” or “buy my cool book” easy to find?
  • Did you check your ego at the door? Who is your site trying to please? Are you trying to impress yourself or your customers? Too often, websites get hung up on self importance. While it IS important to show your visitors that you’re an expert, the product or service needs to be the focal point. If you're selling beans or bikinis, nobody really cares that you climbed Mount Everest in your pajamas last October.

Common sense is the most valuable tool at your disposable, but be smart enough to know what you don't know! Successful websites don't just appear. They’re properly developed, cultivated and then regularly watered.

Developing a successful website is hard work; finding the right surgeon can be even harder.

About Joe Thomas

Joe Thomas is the founder and owner of Left Brain Digital (, a web development company. He’s an award-winning web designer/developer with more than 18 years of experience in print and web design and development. Thomas' work became a major influence in graphic and web design in the "Y2K" era of the Internet's dot-com explosion.

News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Heather Lilienthal   
Friday, 08 June 2012 11:44

WEST DES MOINES, IOWA – June 5, 2012 – Energy costs are on the minds of most Americans as they watch the pumps while filling their gas tanks this summer. But, farmers are also worried about how rising energy costs, from fuel to fertilizer, can impact their businesses. On Wednesday, June 20, at 1 p.m., the Iowa Farm Bureau’s Margin Management Webinar Series will offer a session discussing the implications of energy prices and ethanol margins for Iowa farmers.

The webinar will feature Matt Erickson, an economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation. Erickson specializes in the energy/fuel markets, as well as farm diesel and fertilizer price trends.

“The webinar will discuss a variety of energy-related issues, including the current crude oil and natural gas markets, price forecast, trends, inventories and energy consumption,” said Ed Kordick, commodity services manager with the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation. “These factors definitely have an impact on a farm’s profitability.”

Participants can access the free webinar at and look for the link on the main rotating banner. Registration is encouraged. To register, please contact Kordick at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . While the webinar is open to the public, the program will be archived, with access limited to Farm Bureau members only.


Connect Iowa Releases New Broadband Access Figures PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Jessica Ditto   
Friday, 08 June 2012 11:23

Research shows that broadband access gap in Iowa shrinking; 93% of residents now have access to fixed broadband speeds of 3 Mbps download

Explore the numbers

Des Moines – New research unveiled today by Connect Iowa shows that the broadband availability gap in the state is shrinking, with 93.5% of Iowa residents now having access to fixed broadband of 3 Mbps download or higher, compared to 92.5% last year.

Nonprofit Connect Iowa has been working since 2009 to ensure that Iowans have access to the economic, educational, and quality of life benefits derived from increased broadband access, adoption, and use.

Among the findings of the new broadband availability research are:

  • 82.2% of Iowa households can access broadband at advertised speeds of 6 Mbps download/1.5 Mbps upload, meaning that nearly 218,000 households are in areas that may be eligible for Universal Service Fund broadband deployment subsidies
  • 80.5% of Iowa households can access broadband at speeds of at least 10 Mbps download/1.5 Mbps upload (excludes mobile and satellite services)
  • 96.1% of rural households in Iowa have access to broadband of at Least 768 Kbps download/200 Kbps upload (excludes mobile and satellite services)
  • 3.3% of Iowa households have access to broadband speeds of at least 100 Mbps download/1.5 Mbps upload. In October 2011, only 3.2% of households in Iowa had access to these broadband speeds (excludes mobile and satellite services)
  • Broadband of at least 768 Kbps download/200 Kbps upload is available to 97.7% of Iowa households, up from 97.6% last October, leaving 28,000 Iowa households unable to connect to basic high-speed Internet (excludes mobile and satellite services)
  • 87.2% of Iowa households have the ability to choose broadband service from two or more non-mobile broadband providers (excludes mobile and satellite services)

Note: The data in this report are subject to data validation.

“We are thrilled to see the investment being made by providers and that the work we are doing with our state partners is paying off,” said Connect Iowa State Program Manager Amy Kuhlers. “These latest access numbers show we are starting to bridge the broadband access gap and motivates us even more to focus on bringing broadband to the remaining 28,000 Iowans who remain unserved.”

Last month, Connect Iowa released an innovative new broadband mapping tool called My ConnectView TM offering unmatched views of Iowa’s technology landscape. Residents and businesses are encouraged to use the interactive map to find area providers and help validate the data. Residents are also encouraged to join their local  Connected technology team to help tailor the broadband expansion plan for their community.

Connect Iowa’s research was conducted as part of the State Broadband Initiative (SBI) grant program, funded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The data was gathered in accordance with the requirements of the Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) and subsequent clarifications set forth by NTIA. The process begins by contacting all known providers in the state and providing information about the broadband mapping project. Information on broadband service areas is collected from each willing provider through voluntary participation. A nondisclosure agreement (NDA) is offered to all providers prior to the submission of data; the data protected through the NDA is limited to highly sensitive network infrastructure information, including middle-mile locations. Connected Nation strives to maintain a flexible mapping process in order to be able to collect data from providers in a variety of formats based on providers’ technical capabilities and resources.

# # #

About Connect Iowa: Connect Iowa is a subsidiary of Connected Nation and operates as a nonprofit in the state of Iowa to promote broadband access, adoption, and use. The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) is leading the initiative to increase broadband Internet access throughout rural Iowa. Connect Iowa was commissioned by the state to work with all broadband providers in Iowa to create detailed maps of broadband coverage and develop a statewide plan for the deployment and adoption of broadband. For more information visit:

Why Wait Till Gas Hits $10 a Gallon? PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Monday, 04 June 2012 14:48
Sustainable Energy Expert Details National Plan of Action

There’s a lot of moaning and hand-wringing whenever gasoline prices approach $4 a gallon. But all it would take for them to hit $10 a gallon overnight would be hurricanes wiping out a couple of refineries or saboteurs disabling a couple of pipelines, says Dr. R. Paul Williamson, founder and CEO of the non-profit Sustainable Systems of Colorado.

“The United States is still almost completely reliant on finite fossil fuels, which are rapidly being depleted,” says Williamson, author of Winning the Energy Wars: A Sustainable Energy Plan for America’s Future ( “We should be following a plan now that transitions us to sustainable energy sources but, believe or not, there is no plan.”

The country faces oil shortages, international security turmoil and expanding environmental impacts, he says.

“Our entire future hinges on a sustainable energy plan,” he says. “A crisis will impact our whole quality of life. It’s not just gasoline; petroleum products are used in pharmaceuticals, plastics, things we rely on every day. The time to put together a plan is now – not when we’re in crisis.”

After studying the details of the nation’s looming energy crisis, the former executive director of Hydrogen and Alternative Research and Development for the University of Montana says he’s drafted a detailed plan that is systematic, non-threatening and sustainable. Three key features are:

• Abolish the U.S. Department of Energy. Though the 1973 oil crisis led to its creation, the Department of Energy has done nothing to create a sustainable energy plan in its 35 years of existence. Such a strategic plan isn’t even a goal. Why? Politics. The big, all-powerful oil companies would not benefit. “To ensure America’s security and prosperity’’ is the department’s stated mission.

• Create a Governors National Sustainable Energy Council. Direct the work of implementing the energy plan to leaders who are already doing that. Thirty of our 50 states have adopted goals for sustainable energy, and some have already achieved them. The council would have a rotating two-year board consisting of two governors from each of five regions, and three at-large governors. Funding from the decommissioned Department of Energy (currently, $25 to $35 billion a year) would be diverted to the council, which would be located in America's Heartland away from Washington, DC.

• Enact legislation to establish funding. Williamson proposes a National Alternative Energy Bond Fund to provide low-interest loans to new and redirected companies; entrepreneurs and other businesses focused on domestic energy development. This could be funded through sales of Alternative Energy Series “AE” bonds, trading stocks or bonds in the market as part of the Invest in America program, and establishing a surcharge of the use of products that use finite energy resources.

“We have enough domestic finite, transitional and sustainable resources to become energy independent and we can do so if we get focused, establish a new leadership paradigm and implement what I call the ‘USA Sustainable Energy Plan,’ ” Williamson says.

What can Americans do – besides their individual efforts to reduce reliance on gas and oil? Williamson suggests taking these steps:

• Call or email our elected officials. Contact your governor, your U.S. representative, your U.S. senators and the president.

• Tell them you support adopting the USA Sustainable Energy Plan. Ask for their support on the three action steps: decommissioning the Department of Energy, creating the governors’ council, and creating and funding the alternative energy fund.

• Follow up each week. Reiterate the action items and ask what progress is being made.

For more information on the energy plan, visit

About R. Paul Williamson

R. Paul Williamson is founder and CEO of the non-profit Sustainable Systems of Colorado. He holds bachelor’s degrees in secondary education and communications; master’s in curriculum and instruction and media technology, and a doctorate in technology education. He has served as a dean at four colleges including the University of Montana, where he created the Montana Hydrogen Futures Project, a plan incorporating the state's human, natural and renewable resources to create a statewide, hydrogen-based economy. Presently, he is working to create a sustainable future for the US; deployment of a self-sustaining, hydrogen-powered, magnetic levitation personal rapid transit monorail system; a sustainable smart home development; and an H2 Futures Business Park.

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