Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Michigan farmers hope new program brings more broadband access to rural areas

The digital age has made it easier for people to get their work done more efficiently. And it's not just people working in offices, or at home, staring all day at a computer. Farmers have taken advantage of technology to make their lives easier "to track weather, map the spreading of fertilizers and seeds, and follow prices for input and services," Becky McKendry reports for the Great Lakes Echo. But broadband service isn't always available in rural areas, and in places like rural Michigan, where broadband is severely lacking, farmers are having a hard time getting connected and keeping up to date with the rest of the tech-savvy world.

Hope may be on the way in the form of Connect Michigan, "a public-private partnership with the Public Service Commission that works with counties to create plans to improve Internet services. The plans include actions such as locating federal and state funding and reaching out to community leaders to promote projects for expansion," McKendry writes.

"Around one-third of rural households and farms nationwide lack broadband Internet, according to the most recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture," McKendry writes. "Although current state-by-state numbers are unavailable, the department once ranked Michigan rural areas among the nation’s worst for broadband access in 2008-09." (Connect Michigan graphic: 67 percent of state residents have adopted broadband, but only 50 percent of rural residents have)
That doesn't mean Michigan farmers aren't interested in getting connected. In fact, the opposite is true. "During the days of dial-up Internet, subscription rates at rural farms were consistently higher than those of rural households, according to the report," McKendry writes. "But dial-up isn’t cutting it anymore for agricultural operations, experts say, and broadband access in Michigan’s countryside is often too expensive or unavailable." (Read more)

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