(KMAland) -- Improving access to broadband in rural America continues to be an important topic of conversation.
Parts of farm country are critically underserved when it comes to accessing the world wide web. Abigail Spanberger is a Democratic Representative from Virginia and a member of the House Agriculture Committee. She spoke during an Agri-Pulse webinar on rural issues in Congress and says she found out firsthand just how important broadband is to farmers.
“As one producer told me quite some time ago, farmers are the original work-from-home folks, and the way we do business this century is the internet. And so, for everything from being able to update machinery to communicate with buyers and suppliers, the internet really matters.”
She says better broadband access can be a key to helping rural communities survive and thrive.
“Frankly, broadband is an element of that because so many of the communities I represent are rural communities where broadband is an issue. It matters to the workforce that they can recruit. It matters to the folks who might want to work from home that would want to move back to the county they grew up in. And those folks might not work there locally, but they’d live there, they would be involved in the community, go out to restaurants, and that revenue stream for that local community is so vitally important to have someone who’s a taxpayer and a homeowner living and giving back to a community that they either choose to make their own or potentially one that they grew up in.”
Spanberger says the current efforts to improve broadband access have been “complimentary."
“Depending upon where you live, sometimes those complimentary efforts lead up to a patchwork that gets you and your community members access to the internet. Depending upon where you live, that patchwork might leave you in a hole where you don’t have access. And so, the ReConnect Program, which is an excellent program, a federal grant program that communities can apply for. It’s been very valuable in my district. My first year in Congress, I initially worked to increase funding for that program, and then to protect that funding when the Senate zeroed it out in their funding bills.”
Kip Eideberg is the Senior Vice President of Government and Industry Relations for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. He says improving broadband access in rural America benefits farm country and the nation as a whole.
“Rural America is still waiting on reliable high-speed broadband. And that is a big problem if you live in rural communities and make equipment in rural communities. Strong rural communities that provide Americans with quality education, state-of-the-art infrastructure, economic certainty for our farmers and ranchers, and family-sustaining jobs are critical to the long-term success of rural communities, of equipment manufacturers, and our country.”