Guest Columnist

Broadband investments needed in rural Iowa

ImOn Communications has been working with Iowa communities to leverage existing infrastructure to build out broadband coverage.  Right, an ImOn FTTH (fiber-to-the-home) hub provides service in Marion. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
ImOn Communications has been working with Iowa communities to leverage existing infrastructure to build out broadband coverage. Right, an ImOn FTTH (fiber-to-the-home) hub provides service in Marion. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Last year, T-Mobile made a significant investment in the people and businesses of Iowa — they acquired my company, iWireless. This acquisition is creating jobs, improving service, and driving economic growth in our state.

As the president and CEO of iWireless, and now as a T-Mobile employee, I oversaw the integration of the two companies, working to ensure that as many Iowans as possible had access to fast, reliable, and affordable mobile broadband.

After T-Mobile acquired iWireless, it opened 25 new Metro by T-Mobile stores across the state. What’s more, by the end of 2019, we expect T-Mobile and Metro locations will drive up our Iowa employee count nearly 25 percent year-over-year.

Some pawnshops and hardware stores used to sell iWireless plans, among many other goods. T-Mobile ended that practice in favor of branded retail stores, because it couldn’t guarantee the customer experience at these third-party locations. Some opponents of T-Mobile’s current merger with Sprint have claimed that T-Mobile closed hundreds of stores and laid off dozens of workers in Iowa, but when you look at their sources, they’re pretending that these pawnshops and hardware stores — which are still open — are all “closed” now that they don’t sell wireless plans. This is false, and it’s a weak attempt to mislead the public.

The reality is clear: the T-Mobile-iWireless story is a growth story for Iowa. In addition to creating new jobs, T-Mobile is significantly improving its customers’ network with faster, more reliable, and broader coverage. T-Mobile invested more than $70 million to upgrade its service in our state — and that’s before the merger with Sprint. After that, the combined company will invest nearly $40 billion — that’s billion, with a “B” — in 5G infrastructure and services nationwide, sparking even more job creation and economic growth in communities across Iowa.

We are long overdue for investments in rural broadband. As a recent study in neighboring South Dakota shows, 5G, the next generation of wireless technology, will be critical to advancing economic growth in rural areas.

As we know too well, the Iowa caucuses lead the nation into the presidential primary season. But thanks in large part to T-Mobile’s investment in iWireless, our state also leads the country in demonstrating how investments in state-of-the-art infrastructure and American workers — especially in rural areas — can pay off for everyone.

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Iowans know that companies ought to put their money where their mouths are. T-Mobile did just that when they invested in iWireless — and they’ll do it again with Sprint, expanding broadband access, keeping prices low, and creating jobs.

• Craven Shumaker is vice president of business development for T-Mobile U.S., and is the former president and CEO of Iowa-based iWireless.

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