The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development is helping make high-speed Internet a reality in rural areas. Read on to see how this impacts your business and increases your competitiveness.
During Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Administration, one of the primary differences between living in the city and living in the country was access to electricity. The 1936 Rural Electrification Act (REA) drastically narrowed that gap: people who lived in the country suddenly were able to enjoy many of the same conveniences as their urban counterparts.
Until recently, there was a similar gap in access to information and knowledge-sharing between urban and rural areas, but now broadband (high-speed) Internet is available in many parts of the countryside thanks to the Rural Development division of USDA.
An article in the October 2011 issue of Prairie Farmer highlights the efforts. This article is part of the Farm Progress Farming 2020 Series made possible through the support of Case IH. The series looks at a variety of issues that agriculture will need to be ready for in the future.
Across the USDA Rural Development system, a range of programs are supported through low-interest loans, grants or other cooperative financing, writes author Willie Vogt in the Prairie Farmer article. He reports that in Minnesota alone, broadband investments have added up to more than $650 million since 2003. The economic recovery act is helping fuel a recent surge in projects, all of which are managed through local firms or groups that install the upgrades and technology.
“We’re the support for the last mile to the farm,” asserts Colleen Landkamer, director, USDA Rural Development, Minnesota. “And we support whatever approach works.”
As Vogt points out, that last-mile focus is important because major communication companies haven’t been willing to spend the cash needed to make the final connection. Fortunately, the USDA sees the competitive importance of the move and supports it. Even with continuous cost-cutting discussions at the USDA, efforts to expand broadband in the country have not been curtailed.
“President Obama and I have worked hard to build thriving, sustainable economies communities in rural America,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in one of his blog posts this summer. “This is essential to the strength of our nation, but government cannot do it alone in these tough economic times. Outside funders and partnerships must place a central role both in leveraging federal investments and filling in funding gaps to move projects off the drawing board and give them life.”
Marketing is such a key component of being ready in the future, and Vogt notes that top-level risk management and marketing programs increasingly require more bandwidth — or web speed — to do their work. That’s especially true for real-time quoting programs, which can be informative to use, but can drag down a slower web hookup.
“Rural communities benefit from these systems in many ways,” says Landkamer. From medicine to marketing, getting that high-speed hookup has been – and will continue to be – important.
Has your area benefited from some of the funding USDA Rural Development has made available? What kind of Internet service do you have? Are you able to watch videos easily on your computer? How do you think your information needs will change in the next few years? I’d like to know what you think, and look forward to hearing from you. Please let us know by responding to this blog.