Iowa Group Promotes Muni Movements


A grassroots group -- including two former governors and a state attorney general -- has formed in Iowa to promote initiatives to be placed on ballots in the November 2005 election to push the concept of municipal telecommunications.

Under current Iowa law, a town must hold an election to create a municipal telecommunications authority. The new group, OpportunityIowa, will educate citizens on its point of view: Fiber-to-the-home broadband infrastructure is as vital a utility as sewers and water.

The group claimed that cable and telephone companies have no economic incentive to run FTTH, so cities need to create municipal authorities -- whether a specific project is planned or not -- to preserve the option of overbuilds in the future, a spokesman explained.

Tom Graves, director of the Iowa Cable Telecommunications Association, said he was surprised about the initiative, announced Thursday.

“Since they have the authority to do [an overbuild] today, and since no one’s trying to stop them, it’s a real interesting announcement,” Graves said.

The board of advisers to the new group includes former Govs. Terry Branstad and Robert Ray; former attorney general Bonnie Campbell; University of Northern Iowa president Robert Koob; and Catherine Dunn, president of Clark College.

Also on the board: Clark McLeod, former CEO of telecommunications firm McLeodUSA, whom Graves said has created a fiber-construction and consulting business.

“We’ve met with him. We’ve told him we have no intentions of blocking municpal telecommunications,” Graves added.

OpportunityIowa claimed backing from 83 communities, ranging in population from 1,500-60,000. Supporters include municipalities that already have communications utilities and those that aspire to launch them.

The group hopes to promote local initiatives, rather than a statewide vote to insure city rights to move into telecommunications businesses.