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While fiber may be the most expensive technology up front, it's still the most reliable, "best and cheapest long-term solution" for broadband, Duncan says.

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Other cheaper options include running fiber to a nearby tower that then beams the signal to homes something called fixed wireless or using co-ax or other cables to link homes to a nearby fiber-connected box called a node. The latter is favored by companies like Mediacom, one of the biggest cable and internet service providers in Iowa. It's one of the two major ISPs in Atlantic.

Mediacom has , miles of fiber and 50, miles of co-ax spread across the US. Eventually, it may build fiber to every customer's home, but it doesn't think that will happen for at least five to 10 years, says J. Walden, Mediacom's chief technology officer. But "I don't think … fiber to the home is going to be necessary for the vast majority of Americans within the next five years.


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As for customers like Cathy and Wendy Hansen who live a short distance outside of Mediacom's coverage area, they're out of luck. It's just too expensive for Mediacom to extend its network. In , Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad rolled out the " Connect Every Acre " initiative. For the first three years, the program mainly gave property tax breaks to ISPs going into areas lacking broadband service.

In those three years, they've covered 21, homes, 41 schools and 4, businesses with over 3, miles of fiber, he says. The proposal first has to pass the state legislature. The federal government also has made rural broadband a priority, with loans and grants distributed by the FCC and the US Department of Agriculture. A big problem in Iowa, as in much of the US, is that not even the state government knows how much broadband coverage it truly has.

Von Wolffradt in said that up to 60 percent of Iowa had high-speed internet and broadband connections, though coverage could be "spotty" in some areas. Today, it's unclear how much that level has changed. A broadband map of Iowa from nonprofit Connected Nation shows large swathes of the state without access to 25 Mbps download speeds. Iowa's broadband footprint has grown since then, but it's tough to know how much. That marked the last year of really reliable maps, experts say.

Groups like Connected Nation have been pushing the FCC to collect better data from service providers, down to the street address, and analyze that to create footprints of service availability. It wants the data validated by third parties to figure out areas that need further investigation, and for in-field validation to take place before the maps are finally updated.

It comes down to data. Better maps will inform better investments and make it go where it needs to go. Nearly a decade ago, the Cumberland Telephone Company knew it had to do something about its internet service. The copper lines running to the homes of its landline customers around the town of Cumberland, Iowa, were deteriorating, and it had to find a way to keep their internet running.

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Cumberland started looking at fiber in but then shifted its focus to a more economical fixed wireless service in And it could extend far beyond its traditional landline borders, giving it new customers as far away as Winterset, a mile drive from the town of Cumberland. The Cumberland Telephone Company in Cumberland, Iowa, rolled out fiber internet connections to all of its traditional landline customers.

And Cumberland had miles and homes and businesses it had to cover in its traditional network. Vicki Adams, the Cumberland Telephone Company's office manager, called the decision to go wireless "a mistake. By the time the service got to Winterset, or even Cathy Hansen's home about 11 miles away from Cumberland, it was much slower. And the towers constantly had maintenance problems that were difficult and costly to fix. A tower in nearby Adair was struck by lightning only three days after being installed.

It ended up being struck three times before Cumberland took it down a year later. So the Cumberland Telephone Company turned back to fiber. Waiting for grants to be approved would delay the rollout by about two years, so the company decided to fund the operation on its own through investments it had made over the years.

The move resembled what other companies considered after Google launched its big push with fiber in At the time, Google Fiber promised to be more than times faster than what most Americans could access. ISPs in cities Google served lowered their prices and boosted speeds to compete. But in an illustration of the cost and difficulty of deploying fiber, Google in "paused" plans to roll out its internet service to new cities to explore other wireless options.

Verizon also stopped rolling out its Fios fiber-optic internet service.

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Often, it's the smaller company with the narrower focus that's better equipped to handle specific rural areas. Cumberland, Iowa, has a population of about people. Its main street is quiet on a summer day. And that fee also includes their landline telephone service.

If you're thinking of visiting, you should act fast: Climate change is causing the ice to melt, according to Atlas Obscura. Where: Antelope Canyon, Arizona. Why We Love It: Also called "corkscrew canyon," this lesser known area is open for exploration all year round.

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To get up close and personal with the stunning sandstone, we recommend booking a guided tour. Where: Thor's Well, Oregon. Why We Love It: Located in the teeny tiny town of Yachats, right by Cape Perpetua , this natural well appears to be a bottomless drain for the surrounding sea. The Atlas Obscura website notes the hole is "most spectacular at high tide. Trust us, though: Those incredible vistas are well worth the climb. Where: Harbor Town, South Carolina. Where: Oak Alley Plantation, Louisiana. You can spend a whole day touring the gorgeous estate, which includes grand porches, elaborate decor, and so many more beautiful elements.

Where: Glacier National Park, Montana. Why We Love It: Views like this are what make this rugged corner of wilderness one of America's most scenic places plus it's less crowded than Yosemite and the Grand Canyon!

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Where: Honopu Beach, Hawaii. Why We Love It: While there are too many beautiful beaches in Hawaii to pick just one, the remoteness of this stretch of sand on Kauai's Na Pali Coast make it one of our favorites. Where: Charleston, South Carolina. Why We Love It: With cobblestone-lined streets and Antebellum houses in more shades of pastel than you can count, this small city practically defines Southern charm. But that doesn't make watching the sunset from Zabriskie Point any less beautiful. Where: Mackinac Island, Michigan. Why We Love It: No cars are allowed on this small island on the strait between Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas, making it an idyllic summer getaway.

Where: Grand Teton, Wyoming. Why We Love It: This mountain is so beautiful that it had an entire national park named after it. Where: Multnomah Falls, Oregon. Why We Love It: While this Outer Banks landmark is the world's tallest brick lighthouse, its graphic black and white spiral is what landed it on this list of beautiful places. Where: Cades Cove, Tennessee. Unfortunately, its beauty is no secret so head here in the off season to skip the traffic jam. Where: Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada. Where: Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Why We Love It: When Thomas Jefferson visited in he called this small town where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet "perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature.

Where: Florida Keys, Florida. Why We Love It: Florida is home to over a thousand miles of America's coastline, including the string of tropical islands that make up the state's southern tip. Where: Skagit Valley, Washington. Why We Love It: You don't need to fly all the way to Holland to see some of the world's prettiest tulip fields, which are located just 60 miles north of Seattle. Where: Colorado River, Arizona.

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