According to a new national report from the USDA, Virginia agriculture could grow by 18 percent if broadband technology is extended to underserved communities, reported Lancaster Farming. Broadband powers so-called “smart ag,” in which farmers have more control over planting, watering and otherwise growing their crop, providing more yield and more revenue per acre.
The report, A Case for Rural Broadband, argues that farmers need access to broadband for high-speed uploads and downloads.
“In the western part of the state and elsewhere, you have huge spots where they not only don’t have high-speed internet where they can’t upload the quantity of data, they also don’t have access in general,” said Ben Rowe, national affairs coordinator for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.
Per the FCC, nearly 30 percent of rural Virginians lack access to high-speed broadband. Both state and federal grants and credits are available to incentivize broadband providers to extend high-speed connectivity to rural Americans; however, those funds are allocated using census blocks and can often be misleading.
“If there’s a single broadband connection anywhere in that census block, that whole block gets painted as getting connected. So, you might be miles and miles away from that broadband connection,” Rowe said.
There is legislation in the works, co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, that would require broadband providers to show exactly where they have connected high-speed internet, rather than relying on census tracts, according to Lancaster Farming. Additionally, the House of Representatives has passed an amendment to add $55 million to the annual agriculture appropriations bill that would help expand broadband access to rural communities.
August 7, 2019