Broadband package advances after ‘Workday’ dig

    The fight between Mediacom and West Des Moines over the suburb's deal with Google Fiber continues. (Photo by Denny Müller via Unsplash)

    A pair of broadband bills continued to advance in the Iowa Legislature Tuesday.

    The most high-profile is related to Gov. Kim Reynold’s proposed $450 million matching grant program through 2025. 

    Senate Study Bill 1089 cleared the Senate Commerce Committee. Two Democrats who supported the bill asked for further action on the legislation. 

    Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls of Coralville said some of the fine points of a tier system for matching grants need to be tweaked. But he generally welcomed the initiative and said he would support it. 

    Sen. Janet Petersen of Des Moines also supported the measure, but asked GOP leaders to schedule public hearings on the proposal, noting the large price tag. She questioned how much power the chief information officer would have in the program after a controversy over the state’s use of $21 million in federal aid for the Workday human resources software.

    Auditors ruled the state should repay the money from pandemic aid because the software wasn’t among the allowed expenses. Reynolds contended the spending was appropriate, but decided to return the money. Lawmakers have considered legislation to provide the $21 million from other sources.

    “This is a lot of taxpayer’s money we’re talking about, and a great deal of power given to one person who’s appointed by the governor,” Petersen said. “The last thing we need is a grant program where we find out somebody has gotten drunk with power and given out millions and millions of taxpayer dollars,” she added.

    House Study Bill 133, the companion bill, cleared the Information Technology subcommittee and is awaiting committee action. 

    House Study Bill 53, which sets up a state certification program for cities that pursue improvements to high-speed internet service and promote telecommuting cleared the House Economic Growth Committee Tuesday. The bill moves the state’s conduit installation program from the jurisdiction of the state’s chief information officer to the Iowa Department of Transportation.

    Perry Beeman
    Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.