Amy Kuhlers is the program manager for Connect Iowa, one of two organizations behind the state’s Connected initiative to up broadband coverage. Photo by Kyle Oppenhuizen
What does it take to be a well-connected wireless community?
Cities and counties across the state will have the chance to find out through the new Connected community engagement program launched by Connect Iowa and the Iowa Association of Regional Councils (IARC).
“Connected is a tool for a community to do a nice, complete, all-encompassing broadband assessment of where they are standing right now,” said Connect Iowa Program Manager Amy Kuhlers.
Working with the Council of Governments through IARC, Connected is having leaders in regions around the state take charge in assessing wireless broadband conditions in their communities. The program aims to assess access to broadband, the extent of the adoption of the broadband that is available and how robustly the community is using broadband.
Staff from the Council of Governments from around the state attended a three-day training session in January to learn about the program and why broadband access is important.
The goal is to look at broadband access on a local basis by city or county, depending on the region.
“Iowa generally has pretty good coverage access-wise; we’re pretty blessed in that we have pretty full coverage, with up to 97 percent of our state covered with broadband,” Kuhlers said. “Some folks will tell you that they are underserved in their communities, so maybe their download speeds are not what we need them to be. We know that that’s true, and that’s what this assessment is going to help us pinpoint.”
Participating communities will be assessed and given a score, and a high enough score will lead to certification as a “connected community.” That’s the end goal, but the important part, Kuhlers said, is that communities go through the steps necessary to accurately assess themselves and figure out what they can do better.
The initiative is part of a nationwide branding initiative that all Connected Nation subsidiaries are taking part in.
“It’s just a win-win,” Kuhlers said. “It doesn’t matter if you start the initiative today right now with the launch, or if you want to watch and see what some other communities are doing.”