The new farm bill should encourage rural economic development by making high-speed internet widely available and build on historic investments in carbon sequestration, said a group of center-left House Democrats.
The Biden administration announced a half a billion dollars in grants and loans for high-speed internet projects in rural areas from Alaska to Alabama on Thursday, with more awards expected soon. The 2021 infrastructure bill set aside billions of dollars for broadband access, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “We now have, genuinely, an opportunity to cover all of rural America.”
The USDA has awarded $401 million in grants and loans to 21 projects in 11 states, from Alaska to Texas, to provide residents and businesses with access to high-speed internet service, announced the Biden administration on Thursday.
A sizable portion of America's largest farmers "are unable to take advantage of many applications and services" on the internet because they don't have a connection or it is of poor quality, said a Purdue University survey released on Tuesday. The gap in access exists at the same time the sector is embracing precision agriculture technology such as GPS guidance of tractors and combines.
Rural infrastructure projects across the country will receive a combined $5.2 billion in federal grants and loans to expand access to high-speed internet, electricity, and clean water, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday.
The $1.2-trillion infrastructure bill passed by Congress over the weekend will upgrade U.S. roads, bridges and ports while making high-speed internet available through the nation, said President Biden. An estimated one-third of rural households lack access to the internet at what the White House described as minimally acceptable speeds.
The infrastructure agreement announced by a bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday would expand broadband access to all Americans, according to the White House. An estimated 35 percent of rural families currently lack high-speed internet service.
Slow speeds, bad coverage and expensive service. These are just some of the concerns contained in nearly 300 public comments on Rural Broadband Pilot Program proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a review by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting found.
Rural Americans are on the wrong side of the digital divide, with persistently lower rates of access to broadband service than their metropolitan counterparts. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue discussed the gap during an Axios interview this week, saying, “One of the things we’re really focusing on at USDA for rural development is broadband.”
The president of a rural electric cooperative in central Missouri is President Trump’s choice to head the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service. The agency oversees programs that range from water and sewer facilities to electrical lines and telecommunications.
The 2018 farm bill, while helping “those truly in need” to get enough food, should “support work as the pathway to self-sufficiency, well-being, and economic mobility,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
The Trump administration’s rural prosperity report visualizes broadband as a lever for economic growth, but experts tell Harvest Public Media that “the devil is in the details — or lack thereof.”
Declaring that closing the digital divide is the FCC’s top priority, chairman Ajit Pai proposed an agency order to put $500 million in funding toward high-speed internet in rural America, said ZDNet.
Farmers, especially big operators, may be slightly more wired into the internet than rural Americans overall, and the urban-rural digital divide is narrowing, says a USDA report that provides a comparison with other measurements of the United States online. Based on a biennial survey of farmers, the USDA said 71 percent of U.S. farms have internet access.
In his first trip to Iowa since taking office, President Trump was introduced to high-technology, big-data dependent agriculture and said his $1 trillion infrastructure plan will expand broadband access in rural America. "We will rebuild rural America," said the president, with a prosperous farm sector as the lever for economic growth in rural communities.