Sell the Iowa Communications Network

Late yesterday, the Iowa House debated the idea of selling the state-owned fiber optic network known as the I.C.N. (Iowa Communications Network). The proposal was advanced by House Republicans, in the form of an amendment on an appropriations bill. The amendment failed on a 43 to 55, party-line vote, but here's the key quote during that debate, from a key Democrat:  "I think it's an important issue to talk about, as we should every other issue that may affect the state budget," said Rep. Jo Oldson, a Democrat from Des Moines who is chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. "But I think it's a pretty complicated issue and it needs to be done in a pretty plan-full way."

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Des Moines) is the guest on this evening's IPTV program "Iowa Press" and McCarthy said it's time to start the discussion about selling or leasing the fiber optic network.

After the program, McCarthy spoke with other reporters who watched the show.  Rod Boshart of The Cedar Rapids Gazette noted that Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal in the past has said selling the network would yield the state 10-cents on the dollar in terms of the state investment.  "What's changed?" Boshart asked.

"I'm not sure anything's changed.  I think it's something worth exploring," McCarthy replied.  "It may not be a viable thing to do after some analysis, but I think we should move forward and have some analysis to see what the potential is there.  I know there's been some private industry that's been in my office that'd like to look at it, but I think it's worth exploring."

The next question was about the value of the network, whether the value is in the right-of-way for the trenches dug to install the fiber optic cables, or the fiber optic lines themselves.  "The base infrastructure is tremendous and the capacity it can hold is huge.  Now, depending on who would get access to it, you may have to build infrastructure to connect to it and maybe it could be regional.  Maybe it could be a pilot project.  I don't know, but it's the base fiber-optic structure itself that is valuable.  The capacity is tremendous."

Boshart noted that federal money has been invested in the system to connect the National Guard armories to the system, and that has been considered an impediment to selling or leasing the system in the past.  "It might create problems, which is why it might be some sort of lease agreement.  Maybe it could be regionalized.  It may not be doable.  I juist think it's worth exploring. I think clearly there's some infrastructure here that is largely laying dormant, that is largely not profitable for the state, that has the potential to be so without us losing long term control over it, so I think that's worth exploring."

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.