Broadband internet access is more crucial than ever for businesses and consumers. With faster internet, a booming economy follows, yet there is still a gap in broadband access between rural and metro communities. According to the FCC, in 2016, 24 million Americans lacked broadband internet speeds. Furthermore, 29% of U.S. farms had no access to the Internet according to the USDA. Without broadband in rural America, the agriculture industry will remain at a standstill, creating problems nationwide. Rural communities have been placed on the back burner for leading technology.
Obstacles for broadband in rural communities
With low population density in rural towns, many providers decide that making the investment to build out their broadband networks in those areas is not worth their time. There are few providers willing to take a serious look at rural areas, creating a chain reaction: A scarcity of providers means a lack of competition. A lack of competition drives costs to skyrocket for consumers. It can cost as much as $10,000 per mile to lay fiber in rural areas, and those costs can’t be offset by the dense housing subdivisions of metro and suburban neighborhoods. Wireless and satellite solutions can be more viable options due to terrain limitations, but since regular cellular hotspots from carriers offer too-small data caps for their needs, rural farms are forced to operate on little to no internet or break the bank to keep up with the rest of the industry.
One family-owned retail seed company in rural Indiana figured out a way around high costs, however, by partnering with IFN. In 2008, Beck’s Hybrids was poised for rapid growth into neighboring states, and to keep pace, it needed to upgrade its headquarters’ telecommunication capacity. Since our fiber optic system already ran through Indiana, we were able to lower the cost for installation and connect Beck’s to high-speed internet in just a few months. One of the keys to our success with Beck’s has been our ability to accommodate their budget requirements. Initial construction costs can set companies back, but we were able to create a five-year financing program for Beck’s which allowed them to see an immediate economic impact. IFN maintains a pivotal role in Beck’s continuing success by connecting them to broadband in neighboring states to expand their physical presence. Read our full case study for Beck’s Hybrids»
Broadband’s impact on agriculture
As technology continues to get smarter, precision agriculture tools that farmers use day-to-day require the internet and a lot of data. With fiber optic broadband, farmers are able to communicate with their technology and track trends in their output to reach their full potential. Without a strong internet connection, tools like yield mapping, guidance systems, and soil mapping which provide farmers with data on how much water and fertilizer their crops need are unable to provide accurate data. Even if they were to track their data manually, there is no efficient way to transfer that quantity of data to other locations and team members without broadband connectivity. Machinery, too, keeps improving, which means computer software updates are inevitable. With broadband, machinery can be updated while operating, speeding efficiency for the equipment and the farm as a whole.
The agriculture industry has the opportunity to thrive with new technology, but the barrier of internet access is holding it back. Along with product efficiency, farmers with high-speed internet are able to stay up to date on market trends and communicate with customers. With unification of producers and consumers, the industry can enhance the quality of American agricultural output and can finally work as a well-oiled 21st Century machine.
Additionally, environmental sustainability is buzzing throughout all industries today. With the help of high-speed internet, the agriculture industry will be able to make key changes that are environmentally friendly. Being better able to manage water and crop inputs through smart data collection will enable farmers to waste less water and use only the necessary amounts of pesticides, creating positive environmental impacts.
Rural broadband is essential to modern agriculture. Enabling technological innovation in agriculture will improve the efficiency of the American farmer, increase environmental sustainability, and enhance the connectivity of rural communities as a whole. IFN is committed to being a partner for the agriculture industry in Indiana and beyond. We want to ensure Hoosier farmers can connect their machinery to the best tools available, without breaking the bank. Contact IFN today to see how we can partner with you to bring high-speed internet to your agriculture business.