Broadband boosts rural America

To keep pace with urban, more technologically developed communities, rural areas throughout the United States need access to broadband – high data-rate Internet access.

Broadband is often called "high-speed" access to the Internet because it usually has increased rates of data transmission.

Rural businesses are equally as dependent on Internet technology to conduct business operations that are integral to remaining competitive, maintaining efficiency and being successful. It’s now impossible to compete in the global marketplace without broadband.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “Broadband access plays a critical role in expanding economic, health-care, educational and public safety services in underserved rural communities.”

To assist the economic development of rural America, the USDA is giving 126 recipients $1.2 billion in funding, made available because of the Recovery Act, for new broadband infrastructure projects. This will be coupled with $117 million in private investment to bring the total funding invested to $1.31 billion.

Communication companies throughout the nation are receiving federal money to construct broadband networks in rural-American territories.

In Ohio, three projects received more than $118 million in Recovery Act grants to increase broadband access (
  • Horizon Telecom, $66.5 million: The project, with nearly $28.5 million in matching contributions, will allow Horizon Telecom, a Chillicothe company, to offer affordable middle-mile broadband service in 34 southern and eastern Ohio counties. The project plans to directly connect 600 community institutions to broadband. As many as 1.7 million people and 37,000 businesses will benefit. The project is expected to create more than 230 direct jobs.
  • OneCommunity, $44.8 million: The project awarded to the Cleveland-based nonprofit will add nearly 1,000 miles of fiber-optic cable in 20 northeast Ohio counties. OneCommunity will connect an estimated 800 community anchor institutions, including schools, hospitals, government and public safety facilities, to the high-speed broadband network and create 200 direct jobs.
  • Connected Nation, Inc. $6.9 million: This project, with more than $3.1 million in matching contributions, will allow Connected Nation to encourage broadband adoption in Ohio by deploying 2,000 new public computer workstations, upgrading 317 computer centers and conducting training sessions at community institutions throughout the state.
The United States ranks 12th in regards to worldwide broadband connectivity, with 24 percent of the population enjoying average speeds of more than 5.0 megabytes per second (mbps), compared to 74 percent in South Korea and 60 percent in Japan, according to Web analytics firm Akamai.

“Broadband is becoming the electricity of the turn of the 20th century, or the telephone in the 1930s, when federal aid brought both to rural America through cooperatives,” stated an editorial in the Bemidji Pioneer.

Examples of agricultural rural-broadband use include monitoring commodity prices and weather reports, business-to-business marketing of seed, commodities, produce and/or livestock, and utilizing GPS systems for precision farming.

"Broadband expansion is important for farmers and ranchers because it provides them the real-time information and the capacity to market their products,” said Agricultural Sec. Tom Vilsack. "The same is true for small businesses in those towns."

As rural broadband access is intensified throughout the next few years, it will be interesting to witness its impact on the progression of American agriculture.

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