ARRA grants will enable broadband mapping and planning

Des Moines, IA- Recently, Iowa received a match grant of approximately $2.2 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to support a comprehensive broadband mapping and planning initiative through the Connect Iowa program.

Connect Iowa (www.connectiowa.org) is a partnership between the Iowa Broadband Deployment Governance Board, the Iowa Utilities Board and Connected Nation to increase broadband Internet access throughout rural Iowa. The grant is comprised of $1.7 million for broadband data collection and mapping activities over a two-year period and almost $500,000 for broadband planning activities over a five-year period in Iowa, bringing the total grant award to approximately $2.2 million. The award provided through NTIA's State Broadband Data and Development Grant Program is a matching grant and part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The data collected from the Connect Iowa initiative will be displayed in the national broadband map, which will help inform policymakers and provide consumers with improved information on broadband Internet services available in the United States.

Robert Berntsen, Chair of the Iowa Utilities Board, noted the importance of the grant by stating, "The Iowa Broadband Map is the foundation upon which policy leaders and industry will build a plan to bring high-speed Internet access to the unserved and underserved parts of Iowa."

As part of the Connect Iowa initiative, Connected Nation will be implementing a brand new interactive mapping tool for viewing, analyzing and validating broadband data. Called BroadbandStat, the new interactive mapping platform is a multi-functional, user-friendly way for local leaders, policymakers, consumers and technology providers to devise a plan for the expansion and adoption of broadband. BroadbandStat was developed by Connected Nation in conjunction with ESRI, the world market leader in geographic information system (GIS) software.

BroadbandStat is unique because it allows a user to build and evaluate broadband expansion scenarios using a wealth of data, including education and population demographics, current broadband speeds and availability and research about the barriers to adoption. The tool also provides an instant feedback mechanism for consumers to validate broadband data electronically or via phone.

"We are pleased to be working with the Iowa Utilities Board and the Iowa Broadband Deployment Governance Board to help create a comprehensive broadband map in the state of Iowa," said Brian R. Mefford, Connected Nation's chief executive officer. "We applaud NTIA for working diligently to create a national broadband map and are honored to have been selected to help Iowa in its efforts to close the digital divide in the state."

As the organization that produced the nation's first accurate statewide broadband availability map in 2005, Connected Nation is a prominent voice for the nation's need for better broadband data. Connected Nation has worked closely with national leaders and provided numerous filings in support of a process for broadband data collection at the national level.

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