Farmers, Ranchers Face Broadband Gap Too

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Farmers need broadband connectivity to more precisely water crops and use drones to monitor fields. Just like automakers are developing autonomous vehicles, so too, are manufacturers of tractors and other farm equipment, to help farmers work more efficiently. Studies estimate that precision agriculture technologies could reduce operation costs by up to 25 dollars per acre and increase farm yields by up to 70 percent by 2050.

That’s why Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Steve Daines (R-MT) and John Tester (D-MT) and Representatives Latta (R-OH) and Loebsack (D-IA) introduced companion bills last week titled the “Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018.” S. 2343 and H.R. 4881 direct the FCC to create a task force within a year to determine why there’s a broadband gap on cropland and ranchland and develop policy recommendations to address the disparity. The FCC would work with the USDA and other federal agencies on the project.  

The 15-member task would recommend ways to expand fixed and mobile broadband deployment “with the goal of achieving reliable service on 95 percent of croplands and ranchlands in the United States by 2025,” according to the bill text. In addition to farmers, the group would be comprised of rural internet service providers, telecommunications infrastructure providers (like towercos) and representatives from precision agriculture, such as drones and autonomous tractors.

CCA praised the legislation, with President/CEO Steven Berry saying, “Mobile broadband connectivity can greatly benefit farmers and agriculture businesses in rural areas. Precision agriculture technologies have turned farmers into agricultural engineers, offering tremendous cost-saving and productivity advantages. Not having access to advanced technologies powered by mobile broadband puts farmers at an extreme disadvantage.”

NTCA, too, highlighted the bills. “NTCA’s Smart Rural Community initiative underscores ensuring sufficient access to broadband services in rural America is a crucial aspect of supporting economic development and production on agriculture land across our country,” stated NTCA’s CEO Shirley Bloomfield. “We look forward to continuing important conversations about these issues with the sponsors, and we hope this will enhance coordinated efforts among programs to promote and sustain rural broadband availability and affordability.”

January 29, 2018

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