Up to $1.3 million in grants are available to areas looking to expand broadband internet access.

Gov. Kim Reynolds recently announced the funding is available through the Office of the Chief Information Officer to improve broadband access for Iowans and eliminate underserved areas — referred to as targeted service areas — across the state.

The grant program allows communication service providers, including telecommunication companies, cities and towns, to apply for up to 15 percent of their broadband project costs in targeted service areas, according to a release from the governor’s office. The decree encourages service providers to apply for a grant to install broadband infrastructure in these underserved areas.

“This is another step we are taking to provide access to residents, not only to internet connectivity, but also to opportunities in education, healthcare, employment and business,” Reynolds said. “I appreciate the efforts by (the Office of the Chief Information Officer) to advocate for the grant funding and the Legislature’s significant budgetary boost to improving connectivity for Iowa residents and businesses.”

The issue of broadband access is one that was front and center during the discussion during the 2018 Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors election.

During a Chamber of Commerce forum in October, Supervisor Justin Schultz noted the issue could be handled through a public-private partnership. Schultz said to get young people to stay or return to the area, “You have to give them the internet. How do we make these things (holding up his smartphone) work in small towns.”

“We can do it with both public and private funds,” he said.

Nearly all the candidates, including the three winners — Schultz, Scott Belt and Lynn Grobe — mentioned the need for expanded broadband in the county.

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Citizens and service providers can check the targeted services area map to see if their area is eligible for grant funds under the program at bit.ly/2CGzM06. Click “Open Map in New Window.”

The map shows a large swath of Pottawattamie County is a targeted services area. Almost all of Harrison County is such an area, while the majority of Mills, Fremont, Montgomery and Page Counties are as well.

Formal questions from prospective applicants must be submitted to ociogrants@iowa.gov by Jan. 11. Applications may be submitted online beginning Feb. 18 and must be submitted no later than March 15.

Further information about the grant process for this funding opportunity is available on the Office of the Chief Information Officer website at https://ocio.iowa.gov/broadband-grants.

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