Keep calm, Perdue is working to bring broadband to rural areas

| May 18, 2017
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Internet access is considered a modern necessity. For anyone born after 1985, a world without internet might be foreign. Rural areas have suffered without broadband to keep them connected with the rest of the world.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has made rural broadband a top priority. When he visited Kansas City on April 28 as the first stop after he was confirmed, Perdue stated, “Broadband is going to become just like water and roads in the rural area. We are not going to keep kids on the farm if they can’t get connected.”

According to the FCC, 39 percent of rural Americans (23 million people) lack access to broadband and the majority of those with access deal with extremely slow speeds. By contrast, only 4 percent of urban Americans lack access to the same slower internet speeds.

Perdue made his first formal appearance before Congress yesterday. Perdue made sure to bring up the problem of rural broadband to the House Ag Committee. Perdue tweeted about the meeting yesterday.

Missouri Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn responded by tweeting, “This is a very real problem, especially for farmers trying to use new technology on the farm.”

Recent announcements by President Trump that budgets cuts will be coming to the USDA could hinder the efforts that Perdue and others have been making to bring better internet to rural areas. The 21% cut would impact rural development programs, including those influencing rural broadband.

Projects like the USDA Community Connect Grants of 2016 that presented grants to communities with no or limited broadband access might be a vision of the past with the budget cut proposals.

A proposal from the Democratic members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee is one step Washington is taking to help combat these cuts. A part of the Leading Infrastructure For Tomorrow’s America Act, or LIFT America Act (H.R. 2479) is looking to invest $40 billion over five years for the purpose of expanding broadband services to Americans in rural areas.

“We appreciate this latest contribution to the evolving debate regarding how best to promote access to broadband,” said Rural Broadband Association CEO Shirley Bloomfield in a press release. “While we’re still reviewing the details of this most recent proposal, its introduction and the amount of resources indicated reflect a clear recognition of the importance of broadband as a national infrastructure priority.”

The New Deal Rural Broadband Act of 2017 (H.R. 800) has been introduced to the House. The Bill states that it is, “To establish the Office of Rural Broadband Initiatives within the Department of Agriculture, to preserve open Internet requirements, and for other purposes.”

The bill has been sent to subcommittees, but not other action has been taken.

Please follow and like us:

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: Farm, Farm News

About the Author ()