In 1935, President Roosevelt worked hard to invent the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). During this era, an estimated nine out of 10 farms did not have electricity, while 90% of city dwellers had the resource. The REA was put in place to ensure rural parts of the U.S. received the same luxury. Electrifying ninety-percent of the countryside took nearly a decade, but proved to be beneficial as improvements were noted in sanitation and health, therefore, fueling a new excitement in rural peoples.
Fast forward to 2019, new technologies are expected to trickle through rural areas, prompting excitement like that of the 1930’s.
On Tuesday, Blake Hurst, Missouri Farm Bureau President, spoke in front of the House Agriculture Subcommittee during a hearing in which he demonstrated the need for widespread broadband in rural America.
“Rural broadband is a necessity. We need it for our farms for precision farming, and we need it for our small businesses, and we need it so our families can be fully integrated into society. So, that was the message I tried to bring.”
According to Hurst, current data maps do not accurately depict broadband spectrums in countrysides.
“If there’s one person in a census block, which is the smallest area that the census counts, then they mark the whole census block as having rural broadband, and that means it’s not eligible for government programs. The problem is rural sparsely populated areas, a census block could be many square miles, and so one person might have broadband and 20 or 30 do not, and yet it’s still being counted as served.”
Challenges facing rural communities due to broadband inefficiencies were noted in Hurst’s remarks.
“Nationwide, 26.4 percent of American rural citizens lack broadband internet access. In Missouri, it’s actually closer to 50 percent, so we really lag behind. And it is a challenge for kids doing homework, for people that want to use precision agriculture, for telemedicine, which was sort of a focus of the hearing. So, it causes a lot of problems in rural Missouri.”
Roughly $64.8 billion could be put back into the agricultural economy through use of widespread broadband per American Farm Bureau Federation study.