Legislators Seek to Bridge Digital Furrow

In the latest in a legislative flurry of broadband-related items, a bipartisan bill has been introduced in both the House and Senate to promote rural broadband deployment and identify fallow broadband fields in key agricultural sectors. The bill, the Precision Agricultural Connectivity Act, would require the Federal Communications Commission to create a task force in cooperation with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)--currently their headquarters are cheek by hog jowl in D.C.--to evaluate the best way to promote broadband for precision agriculture--self-driving tractors, IoT devices, drones for crop assessment, etc. Reps Bob Latta (R-OH) and Dave Loebsack (D-IA) introduced the House version--they are co-chairs of the Rural Broadband Caucus, while Sens Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the Senate version. The FCC/USDAtask force would be asked to:

  • Identify and measure current gaps in broadband coverage on cropland and ranchland
  • Assemble a comprehensive guide of all federal programs or resources dedicated to expanding broadband access on cropland and ranchland
  • Develop policy recommendations, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to promote the rapid, expanded deployment of fixed and mobile high-speed broadband on cropland and ranchland, with the goal of achieving service on 95 percent of croplands and ranchlands in the United States by 2025
  • Recommend specific steps the FCC can take to ensure that available farm data from the USDA is reflected in developing Federal programs to deploy broadband to croplands and ranchlands
  • Submit an annual report to Congress detailing the status of fixed and mobile broadband coverage on croplands and ranchlands; the projected future connectivity needs of agricultural operations, farmers, and ranchers; and the steps being taken to accurately measure the availability of high-speed broadband on croplands and ranchlands and the limitations of current measurement processes.

Legislators Seek to Bridge Digital Furrow