The answer is “not much!”

Consider these comparisons:

Costa Rica Iowa
Population 4.9 million 3.1 million
Land Area   19,714 sq. miles 56,276 sq. miles
Topography    Mountainous Reasonably Level


Why do I bring this to our attention? Recently, my wife and I experienced a brief visit to Costa Rica where I learned something surprising about the country.

Our travels took us by coach half-way across the mostly mountainous countryside. Even though the population is spread throughout the mountains, our guide (school superintendent as his regular job) explained that in this small nation of Costa Rica internet is provided a high level of high-speed internet service to its citizens. The following article supports this claim:

This internet standard in a country that does not have the high economic conditions and physical opportunities that we do in Iowa is amazing! Iowa is a relatively flat state where the physical task of providing high-speed internet service would seem to be far less challenging.

As a nation, they decided to make sure that Costa Rica and its citizens are provided with the opportunity to compete on a worldwide scale. Old infrastructure was not allowed to be an excuse and the change opens opportunities for country’s businesses to leapfrog ahead. In some cases, an older communication and internet infrastructure can impede advancement.

Regardless, if Costa Rica can attain the goal with the wide range of cultural and economic roadblocks and limitations it faces, it should make us pause. Can Iowa set the standard for the nation if it doesn’t have a high-quality statewide program servicing every resident of our State?

A factor that gives Costa Rica an edge is that they started to improve areas where there was little communication infrastructure allowing them to move more aggressively without fear of significant impacts to existing infrastructure owners and managers.

Arguments to extending services in the U.S. often center around the populations being served and whether it can support the investment of infrastructure with enough subscribers. It is my opinion that our rural state demographic with dispersed populations demands the same access to internet quality as those in our state’s metro areas.

The delivery of electrical service to every farm in the 1930’s (Rural Electrification Act (REA) in 1936.) was not based on economic viability, but, on the need for equality of service throughout the nation – both rural and urban. It was federal funding based on a national goal and it was the local Rural Electric Cooperatives that accomplished bringing those power lines to every home.

It is essential for every citizen, regardless of location, to have access to high-speed internet to be competitive within Iowa and with the rest of the world. This includes students, adults, farmers, educators, health care workers and most certainly the business community. Internet service should not be solely based on financial return on the dollar. High-speed internet services open the door to compete on a global scale despite where you derive…even if it’s from small-town Iowa. This level of service is essential to bring equal opportunity to all.

This small country of Costa Rica is innovating with a global-minded spirit that has expanded into many other progressive policies on education and taxation. Whether these applications fit in other countries or states or not, they are reflective of broad-minded tactics that are preparing for the global arena.

The following is taken from a promotional item in the country.

Costa Rica is no stranger to technology, and many populated areas have access to either cable or DSL high-speed Internet. RACSA’s WiFi service is available free of charge at select locations throughout the country: the Juan Santamaria International Airport, city central parks, malls, and several public libraries.

Let’s re-think the goal for high-speed internet service to every Iowan. It needs to happen quickly and not down the road.