IFB comments on USDA e-connectivity pilot

Newly-funded program to help bring broadband to more rural areas.

By Brenda Matherly

Access to broadband connectivity is important to rural Illinois. In all areas of the state, broadband plays a critical role in the lives of rural citizens and the industries providing quality-of-life services.

Success in agriculture, health care, education and economic development require rural areas to keep up with connectivity and technology. Illinois Farm Bureau recently submitted comments to USDA in a show of support for a newly-funded program to evaluate rural broadband needs.

USDA has received a $600 million appropriation from Congress in the Consolidated Budget Act of 2018. The money will be used to develop a pilot program to help bring broadband to rural areas of the country. The focus of the program is to improve broadband services for as many rural American homes, businesses, farms, schools and health care facilities as possible.

IFB’s comments, based on member policy, included support of a survey targeting rural households and businesses to collect data on the satisfaction of “sufficient broadband access” in rural areas. The survey should contain a set of standardized and uniform questions created from and tabulated by a single source (for example, USDA), and involve distribution using “hard copy” delivery. 

IFB conducted a member broadband service survey from Feb. 22 to March 12. Members said they value high-speed, reliable internet access.

Of the 235 respondents from 178 towns, villages and cities, 75 percent reported having broadband internet access at home, while 61 percent have broadband internet access on their farm. Fifty-six percent reported “lowest satisfaction” with their broadband internet service, and 66 percent said the quality of their broadband internet negatively impacts their farming business. Seventy-one percent said IFB should “focus a lot” to on this issue.

Offering comments and staying in the loop with USDA’s efforts helps keep IFB at the table on this priority issue that impacts both the well-being of agriculture and the quality farm family life.

Brenda Matherly serves as IFB assistant director of local government. This article appeared in the latest edition of LINK, Local Information, News & Know-How. Visit this link to view the newsletter.