Clements: Broadband is no longer a luxury for rural America. A study by the American Farm Bureau Federation shows widespread broadband service could boost the agricultural economy by an estimated $64.5 billion. A House Agriculture Subcommittee hearing Thursday focused on the need for improving access to rural broadband. Blake Hurst, Missouri Farm Bureau President, told the Subcommittee rural broadband is essential for rural America.
Hurst: Rural broadband is a necessity. We need it for our farms for precision farming, and we need it for our small businesses, and we need it so our families can be fully integrated into society. So, that was the message I tried to bring.
Clements: Data maps that measure rural broadband are not specific enough, according to Hurst, and do not accurately reflect rural broadband connectivity.
Hurst: If there’s one person in a census block, which is the smallest area that the census counts, then they mark the whole census block as having rural broadband, and that means it’s not eligible for government programs. The problem is rural sparsely populated areas, a census block could be many square miles, and so one person might have broadband and 20 or 30 do not, and yet it’s still being counted as served.
Clements: Hurst says the lack of rural broadband creates challenges for rural communities.
Hurst: Nationwide, 26.4 percent of American rural citizens lack broadband internet access. In Missouri, it’s actually closer to 50 percent, so we really lag behind. And it is a challenge for kids doing homework, for people that want to use precision agriculture, for telemedicine, which was sort of a focus of the hearing. So, it causes a lot of problems in rural Missouri.
Clements: Micheal Clements, Washington.