Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Widely available rural broadband could boost U.S. economy by $47 billion a year, USDA says in report

Expanding rural broadband to farms and ranches nationwide could result in at least $47 billion in national economic benefits every year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A USDA report, A Case for Rural Broadband, is part of the agency's ongoing efforts to expand rural broadband. It recently launched a $600 million pilot program to awards loans and grants to rural communities to build out their own broadband networks.

The report says that, if broadband and digital technologies were widely available in rural areas, the U.S. economy could get a boost equal to about 18 percent of the nation's total agricultural production. Such digital technologies usher in what the report calls "Next Generation Precision Agriculture," in which farmers use precise, frequently updated data on their lands and crops for more accurate planting, feeding and watering, pest management and harvesting. 

Some NGPA technology doesn't require broadband, the report notes, but it says that as technology advances, farmers will not only need faster download speeds, but faster and "more symmetrical" upload speeds too. The Federal Communications Commission's definition of high-speed internet is 25 megabits per second for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads.

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