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Wireless Internet Bill Down to the Wire

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) -- At the beginning of legislative session, lawmakers in Des Moines considered a bill to help rural parts of Iowa better connect to the internet. It received a lot of support on both sides of the isle, but in the final few days, the Connect Every Iowan Act still isnt a law.

The law tries to do one simple thing: facilitate the building of infrastructure that would allow more Iowans to have broadband internet access and cell phone coverage, making their lives easier and businesses more profitable in the 21st Century. The problem now is the passing of this legislation is coming down to the wire.

In Representative Daniel Lundbys district, near Ely, more and better internet access would go a long way.

"More services are going to rely on broadband internet access whether it be libraries, schools, community colleges or regent universities, said the Democratic member of the House.

"It still creates a sound business model and an opportunity for entrepreneurship in rural Iowa," said Republican Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen, from Hiawatha.

The idea is to better connect people in cities like Ely, on the fringe of urban areas like Cedar Rapids, but also to go much farther than that.

"What we're trying to attempt in this bill is getting the small telecoms and getting the large cell companies to build out to that last mile, said Democratic State Senator Liz Mathis.

While it sounds like something thats easy to get behind, that doesnt mean it can get through the legislature without a few speed bumps.

"I'm always leery when someone says anything's slam dunk because that usually means everyone realizes the benefits but no one knows how to deliver those benefits in the most cost effective way, said Representative Lundby.

"Where we're still having issues is are we protecting cities enough and counties and the state when a cell company comes in and they want to place a tower in a given area, said Senator Mathis.

The concern isnt only over aesthetic looks, but some municipalities just have more resources than others. To handle those cell tower requests, they need legal counsel, planning and zoning departments have input in the planning process and then theres the issue of working out the details with cell service companies before construction can start.

"If it's a small town, you might not be able to do that work as quickly as you would for a larger city," said Senator Mathis.

Right now theres one version of the bill that has passed the State Senate. That version has language regarding the protection of municipalities that smaller cities have approved. The Houses version of the same bill has slightly different language. Those two pieces of legislation will have to come together in the next week if its to be passed this session. If now, the representatives say it will definitely be targeted next session, since its so important to so many people.
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