IFB survey: Farmers need better internet

A bill recently approved by the U.S. Senate would create a task force to focus on the connectivity and technology needs of farmers.

By Deana Stroisch

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While Illinois farmers generally have access to broadband at their home and farm, they’re unsatisfied with it and believe the poor connectivity hurts their farming operation, according to findings from a recent Illinois Farm Bureau survey.

In the same survey, participants urged IFB to “focus a lot” of its efforts on the issue.

“Our members emphasized that broadband connectivity is important to agriculture and they’re demanding better, faster and more reliable broadband internet access in rural Illinois,” said Adam Nielsen, IFB director of national legislation and policy development. “They’re saying ‘let’s make this a priority.’”

Given the attention on rural broadband, IFB asked members to take a seven-question survey to help staff gauge the need for expanded coverage in Illinois. Between Feb. 22 and March 12, 235 people responded from 178 towns. Survey results showed:

- 72 percent reported having broadband internet access at home.

- 61 percent have broadband internet access on their farm.

- 56 percent noted “lowest satisfaction” with their service.

- 66 percent reported the quality of their broadband internet negatively impacts their farming business.

- 71 percent said IFB should “focus a lot” on the issue.

“Survey respondents represented every corner of the state and clearly want improvements,” Nielsen said. “A number of bills have been introduced to study and improve rural broadband access. We’re using the survey results to start the conversation with our delegation and with other stakeholders, and encourage action.”

The Senate Commerce Committee recently approved S. 2343, the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018. The bill would create a task force to focus on the connectivity and technology needs of farmers. According to the Federal Communications Commission, 39 percent of rural Americans lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps service, compared to only 4 percent of urban Americans. American Farm Bureau Federation supports the legislation, which it described as an “important milestone.”

Speaking at AFBF’s annual convention, President Donald Trump promised to help expand rural access to broadband internet. It’s viewed as a way to spur rural development.

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