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Midwest states show progress in rural connectivity

Published by Forum News Service on February 27, 2019

By Jenny Schlecht

Precision agriculture experts talk about a lot of possibilities for technology in agriculture. Things such as sensors for irrigation and plant health could help farmers keep on top of their crops and stretch their resources.

But in many places, implementing such technologies will take something farmers have no control over — the availability of fixed or mobile broadband connections.

According to a report from the American Broadband Initiative — a federal initiative aimed at improving accessibility of internet connections — more than 92 percent of the U.S. population had access to fixed land-based broadband in 2016. However, of the 8 percent remaining, 80 percent are in rural America.

“This is more people than live in the states of New York or Florida,” the report said.

Midwestern states, however, rank high in their access to internet service. A U.S. News and World Report ranking in January said Iowa and North Dakota were the top two states for internet access, and South Dakota and Minnesota also made the top 10.

Efforts are underway regionally and nationally to improve access for rural areas. But at the Precision Ag Summit in January in Jamestown, representatives from two of the companies that have helped expand access to high-speed internet addressed the main need they see for technology in agriculture: getting service to “the last mile.”

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