Satellite Connectivity Is “Not Out of This World,” According to Iowans


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The FCC classifies satellite internet access as high-speed broadband. The problem? According to Katie Kienbaum, a research associate with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Minneapolis, the federal government assumes all Iowans have access to broadband when hundreds of thousands of the state’s rural residents struggle to access good connectivity. That means everyone in Iowa is “officially” considered to have access to at least three different broadband providers.

In an article appearing in the Des Moines Register, Kienbaum notes that by accepting satellite internet access as “good enough,” the federal government is dooming rural Iowans to second-rate connectivity, effectively shutting them out of the modern economy.

Internet speeds from satellite providers are slower than cable or fiber and makes it practically impossible to use for video or phone calls, according to Kienbaum. Plus, satellite providers often charge more than other types of internet access providers.

In reality, more than 10 percent of the population (approximately 360,000 people) doesn’t have access to broadband and another 40 percent (more than 1 million people) only have access through a single monopoly provider. Labeling all of Iowa as “served” means the state may not receive further federal funding to invest in its broadband infrastructure, noted Kienbaum, cutting off access to online education, telemedicine, and precision agriculture.

Now, some Iowa communities are taking their connectivity — and their economic future — into their own hands, by building fiber networks that can deliver gigabits to local businesses and residents. According to Kienbaum, the federal government should not deny funding to high-quality networks in rural areas just because satellite happens to be marketed there.

November 29, 2018