The Future of American Farming Demands High Speed Internet Solutions

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Press Release

The Future of American Farming Demands High-Speed Internet Solutions

New Report from Benton Institute for Broadband & Society recommends steps for connecting the farm office, field, and community


Farmers across rural America need fast, affordable, and reliable broadband solutions to power innovative, data-driven, sustainable agriculture — and to meet the world’s rising demand for food.

The future of American Farming — and our food supply — depends on it.

“Farmers know what they need for sustainable, data-driven agriculture that can keep pace with the world’s rising food demand,” the report's author, Jordan Arnold, concludes. “Now it’s time to hear them and deploy the broadband networks and adoption strategies they require to continue to innovate and feed the world.”

Connectivity is critical not only in farm offices, but in fields for precision farming, and to structures such as grain silos, hog barns, or even compost drums, according to a new report from the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society in collaboration with the United Soybean Board.

The Future of American Farming: Broadband Solutions for the Farm Office, Field, and Community lays out 15 actionable recommendations for delivering the high-speed internet that farmers and rural communities need.

Interviews with farmers, rural internet service providers, equipment manufacturers, and other agricultural leaders and experts brought to light a broad consensus around several key outcomes for rural broadband, such as the need for:

  • robust upload speeds,
  • accurate network deployment data, and
  • scalable technologies.

The recommendations are a direct response to the problems revealed in a 2019 rural broadband study from the United Soybean Board.

That study showed that 60 percent of U.S. farmers and ranchers do not believe they have adequate internet connectivity to run their businesses, and that their plans to incorporate data into their day-to-day decisions are often thwarted by slow internet speeds, high costs, and unreliable service. And many farmers do not have another viable option to change internet service providers.

Even hampered by these issues, farmers know that broadband is a necessary tool to innovate agricultural practices, allowing for more targeted and efficient resource use. Broadband access is central to sustainability because connected technologies allow farmers to measure their inputs and outputs, creating opportunities for smarter, more sustainable resource management.

Mace Thornton, vice president of communications and marketing strategy for the United Soybean Board, explains how connectivity drives sustainability: “Connectivity of land, equipment, and infrastructure drives the ability to proactively manage digital data at the farm and ranch level. Managing digital data drives precision agriculture, and precision agriculture drives many foundational aspects of measurable sustainability. That is why this issue is so vital to US Soy.”

“These opportunities are especially important as we emerge from health and economic crises that have gripped America and deeply impacted American agriculture for over a year,” said Adrianne B. Furniss of the Benton Institute. “This is the moment every tool must be made available to farmers.”

To read the full report, visit For more information, contact Adrianne B. Furniss, Executive Director, Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.

About the United Soybean Board

United Soybean Board’s 78 volunteer farmer-directors work on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers to achieve maximum value for their soy checkoff investments. These volunteers invest and leverage checkoff funds in programs and partnerships to drive soybean innovation beyond the bushel and increase preference for U.S. soy. That preference is based on U.S. soybean meal and oil quality and the sustainability of U.S. soybean farmers. As stipulated in the federal Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soy checkoff. For more information on the United Soybean Board, visit

About The Benton Institute for Broadband and Society

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to open, affordable, high-performance broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy - rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity - has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.


How to Get Farmers and Rural Communities the Broadband They Need

The Farm Office: The farm operations center, often an office within the farmhouse itself, is used for administrative tasks, as well as making production and input decisions. Many farm office tasks, such as uploading raw sensor data and participating in remote training sessions, require significant upload speeds. Farmers can benefit from build-out of high-performance fiber-based networks deep into rural America. How do we ensure that farmers get reliable, symmetrical broadband service?

  • Establish future-proof performance standards: To meet the growing demand among farmers for both upstream and downstream speeds, networks must be capable of 100/100 Mbps service.
  • Clarify rules around easements and rights of way: State governments can address legal uncertainty around easements and rights of way, which can slow deployment and increase costs, particularly for electric cooperatives.
  • Incentivize build-out to the operations center: Broadband funding programs can reward applicants that deploy broadband to the operations center of the farm and other critical farm buildings.
  • Support open-access, middle-mile networks: Middle-mile deployment can pack a powerful punch by bringing scalable, fiber-based connections deep into rural communities while also lowering the cost of last-mile deployment for private providers.

The Field: In the field, farmers rely on wireless connectivity—such as cellular, satellite, and fixed wireless—to make real-time strategic and logistical decisions about their land, crops, animals, equipment, and farm facilities. Experts agree that farmers may require multiple, complementary technologies to meet their connectivity needs in the field. How can we address the special connectivity demands of farms?

  • Adopt high-performance standards: Performance standards for upload speeds and latency should reflect the changing needs of farmers for precision agriculture.
  • Encourage deep fiber build-out: Fiber build-out in rural America, even if not directly to the farm, will be needed to support capable wireless connections for higher-bandwidth applications in the field.
  • Address gaps in mapping on farmland: Broadband maps should include mobile coverage on agricultural lands. The underlying data that informs these maps must be available to the public.
  • Advocate for interoperability and privacy standards: Without better coordination about interoperability and privacy standards, farmers may be less willing to adopt precision agriculture technologies.
  • Adjust spectrum award mechanisms to reward farmland coverage: Spectrum auctions can adopt geographic coverage requirements in some rural agricultural areas to encourage deployment on farmland.

The Community: Farms depend on rural communities, and rural communities depend on farms. Broadband can enable new opportunities in agricultural communities, such as remote education, telework, and telehealth. Rural communities can work with local organizations, including nonprofits, cooperatives, and community-oriented private providers, to find solutions that meet their access and adoption needs. How do we connect the communities that farms rely upon?

  • Adopt comprehensive state broadband plans: State plans that encompass all aspects of a broadband strategy—including deployment, competition, and digital equity—are best suited to meeting states’ regional economic development and other goals.
  • Support digital equity programs at the state and local levels: Digital equity programs led by state and local governments and backed by federal funding can work with communities to help people make full use of broadband connections.
  • Encourage local planning and capacity building: Federal and state funding can encourage local planning and capacity building, which may include developing local or regional broadband strategies and applying for federal broadband grants.
  • Implement accountability measures: Federal funding programs for broadband deployment that include strong accountability measures ensure that providers hit their deployment goals.
  • Encourage local, community-oriented providers: Federal programs that support broadband can encourage entry from more broadband providers, including cooperative and community-based solutions.
  • Facilitate federal, tribal, state, and local coordination: All levels of government can work together as partners to create opportunities for collaboration.
  • Coordinate efforts of federal agencies: A coordinated effort between federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the Federal Communications Commission, will allow them to synergize their respective expertise and meet the distinct needs of farmers.


The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy - rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity - has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.

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Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
1041 Ridge Rd, Unit 214
Wilmette, IL 60091
headlines AT benton DOT org

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