Two members of the Iowa House Government Oversight Committee think that selling the Iowa Communications Network (ICN) is a bad idea, despite the controversy over improper expenditures by it's now-fired director.
In a taping of Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press", Rep. Bobby Kauffman (R-Wilton) and Rep. Vicki Lensing (D-Iowa City) agreed that the valuable service the ICN provides to Iowa schools and other authorized users makes a sale problematic.
Then Rep. Kaufmann mentioned something that would be of interest to Broadband Bytes readers:
Kaufmann indicated leasing the fiber optic lines to cities or counties might be an option, so municipal utilities could use the network to serve far more local customers, “to be able to get fiber optic network out to rural Iowa.”
Allowing more authorized users of the ICN - including municipal utilities - has been somewhat of a third rail in Iowa politics over the years - touch it and you die. But if the ICN sale bill doesn't become law, Kauffman's comments may present an opening for municipal utilities seeking alternative middle mile options.
CLICK HERE to read a story about the comments from Radio Iowa.
Technicians at municipal broadband companies are strongly encouraged to participate in the Iowa Heartland SCTE Cable-Tec Games. This year's competition will be held on March 14, 2018 at Kirkwood Community College in Hiawatha.
The Games gives field technicians an opportunity to test their skills in a variety of areas:
Dave Schilling with Cedar Falls Utilities, the Iowa Heartland Board President, is hoping to assemble a "municipal all-star" team!
Last year's winner of the Iowa Games, Nathan Sidlinger of the Quad Cities, went on to finish in 3rd place overall at the International Cable-Tec Games in Denver.
Registration is FREE and open to both SCTE members and non-members. To register, visit the Iowa Heartland SCTE Events page by CLICKING HERE.
Senate File 2219, introduced by Senator Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale), would direct the Iowa Telecommunications and Technology Commission to issue an RFP for sale or lease of the Iowa Communications Network.
The bill, which has been assigned to the State Government committee in the Iowww.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/2018/01/22/iowa-lawmakers-launch-investigation-into-iowa-communications-network-following-alleged-theft-cronyis/1055777001/wa Senate, is the second attempt to get the ICN off the state's books in 4 years and comes on the heels of the discovery that previous ICN Director Ric Lumbard had misspent almost $380,000 of state money.
In 2012-13, the state also attempted to sell the ICN. Only one entity-Iowa Network Services (Aureon) submitted bids for the fiber optic network, but those bids were rejected by Governor Terry Brandstad as being well below the value of the system.
The new attempt includes a carry-over stipulation from the last attempt at a sale: no public funds could be used to buy the ICN. That means a consortium of cities, counties, utilities, and other public entities would not be allowed to buy the ICN. There has been interest in such a joint project in the past since the ICN touches every county and many communities in the state. Allowing cities and utilities to access the ICN has always been a highly political topic and remains so in this attempt.
A new twist comes in paragraph 3f of the bill:
"The winning bidder selected pursuant to the request for proposals shall demonstrate a commitment to serving the citizens of this state and facilitating rural broadband service throughout the state at or above twenty-five megabits per second of download speed and three megabits per second of upload speed."
So it would appear that successful bidders will need to be retail internet providers or express a willingness to do so. Would that eliminate some bidders, such as middle mile network providers that maintain mostly wholesale services? Would it give a bidding advantage to companies such as Mediacom and CenturyLink that are already retail providers?
We'll keep track of SF2219 as it makes its way through the process and provide updates here on Broadband Bytes.
Broadband Bytes News
Curated by Curtis Dean, SmartSource Consulting
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