March 20, 2023

Focus on Agriculture: Rural Americans need better broadband access

Rural connectivity is a priority issue

Loading. Loading. Loading. Oh, wait. Disconnected.

For many rural residents across the nation, it’s an all too familiar feeling when trying to stream content, check email or upload files.

Once considered a luxury, broadband is now essential. It’s vital for information, education, marketing, security and other important parts of daily life. The internet is about connecting with virtually everything.

But Federal Communications Commission data show that 17% of rural Americans lack access to broadband, compared to only 1% of urban Americans.

That may be a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic, though. We’ve always known broadband connectivity was essential to modern life. But because of the pandemic, the issue was highlighted across the country.

But broadband access isn’t just for online learning. It’s important for telemedicine and for those who have jobs off the farm, but live in rural America.

It’s important for staying connected with friends and family, for placing an online grocery order, for marketing products and for access to government services.

And it’s important for farmers and ranchers. Broadband allows farmers to be more sustainable and efficient with the latest technology.

It allows them to implement even more economical and environmentally friendly practices, as well as access new markets and communicate with customers. Access to broadband is key to all of those aspects.

Rural connectivity is a priority issue for Farm Bureau during the 118th Congress. The goal is to implement legislation to expand broadband and cellular access to provide more opportunity in rural areas across the nation, because the need for broadband connectivity in rural areas is essential.

I’m hopeful that one day, high-speed, uninterrupted connections will really exist in my home state of Texas and across the nation. And no one will be left forever buffering.

Because whoever said patience is one of the keys to success must never have experienced a slow internet connection.

Julie Tomascik is associate director-editor at Texas Farm Bureau.