Iowa Senate leader calls for sale of ICN

The reflection of the dome of the State Capitol building is seen in a puddle in Des Moines on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The reflection of the dome of the State Capitol building is seen in a puddle in Des Moines on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

JOHNSTON — Senate President Jack Whitver joined the list of Iowa lawmakers calling for the sale of the state-owned Iowa Communications Network.

Whitver, an Ankeny Republican who recalled taking high school classes over the ICN while attending Grinnell High School, said Friday it’s time to sell the fiber-optic network — if the state can find a buyer.

“Those days are over,” he said about using the 29-year-old network to deliver telephone communication, video conferencing, internet and data services to state and local government agencies, hospitals, libraries and schools.

“You pull up your phone now and you have FaceTime live,” he said. “The world has changed, and government needs to adapt to it.”

Earlier this week, Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, who has offered legislation in the past to sell the network, suggested “maybe it’s time to tie a can around the ICN and let it sink to the bottom of the lake where it belongs.”

Their comments follow the firing of the ICN Executive Director Ric Lumbard of Marion, earlier this month after State Auditor Mary Mosiman identified $379,500 in improper disbursements and undeposited collections resulting from management decisions she called “not in the taxpayers’ best interest.”

The problem with trying to sell the ICN is that there has been little interest from potential buyers.

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Whitver supported an attempt to sell it, but “we did not get a bid that was sufficient.”

Despite that, he said using the ICN to deliver services no longer makes sense.

“Right now we’re mandating certain entities to buy coverage from the ICN at a rate that is higher than the market rate,” Whitver said about requiring state and local government entities to buy services from the network. “I don’t think that’s a good way to do business in the 21st century.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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