U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack was in Albia on Friday, meeting with management and board members of Chariton Valley Electric Cooperative. The main topic of discussion was to have been CVEC’s work to bring broad band internet access to rural areas, but the affect of the partial federal government shutdown became a topic of conversation.
The electric coop located in Albia and serving most of Monroe County and South Central Iowa is currently engaged with the USDA, Small Business Administration and other federal funding agencies in industrial and rural development.
CVEC Manager Bryon Stilley discussed several projects ongoing with Rep. Loebsack including Monroe County Hospital and Clinics, Lakeview Elementary School in Centerville, the new Camp 360 factory coming to Albia in the spring and ongoing work with Iowa Aluminum and Relco.
CVEC is providing bridge loans and using a revolving loan program through its energy supplier, Northeast Power, with the USDA and SBA, both of which are either shut down completely or working with skeleton crews because of the 31-day partial shutdown. “It’s just very frustrating to be facing critical deadlines, knowing our work won’t be processed in a timely manner,” said Stilley.
The group assembled, which included board members Becky DeTar, Ken VandenBerg and Richard Welsh, talked at length about the electric coop’s struggle to develop broad band internet access. Rep. Loebsack has been an active voice in Congress to connect rural areas to high speed internet access.
The group discussed the “homework gap” of rural students unable to complete assignments because their homes don’t have good access to the internet, as well as “line of site” efforts to provide access. “We have a lot of trees and hills,” said board member Becky DeTar. “You don’t have consistent line of site and it won’t work without it.”
CVEC would ultimately use their existing infrastructure that brings electricity to every home in its area to create a broadband system.
“Broadband is part of the admission to economic development,” said Loebsack. “We haven’t given up getting this done.”