For years, the rural community has suffered poor broadband connectivity and lack of technological advancement. Recently, with COVID-19 these struggles have been amplified. The Federal Communications Commission defines rural broadband as a 25 megabits per second download speed and 3 megabits per second upload speed. Not enough to move large chunks of data across the Ethernet.
“Living in a rural area has great rewards, however rural residents do not have access to the same amenities as those that live in a more urban environment,” said Yuma County Farm Bureau President David Sharp. “We knew that our connection to the broadband, Internet as well as our cell service, was a bit challenging, but we got along well enough until COVID-19. When our country began the lock-down we needed to rely on our broadband and cell service even more. But with the added demands on these services by all that use them it became even slower, and more difficult.”
Sharp continued. “With the lock down, we have needed to use broadband more than ever. One example is meetings, with slower speeds this is exceedingly difficult. But I think an even greater problem is the students that live here are having trouble with inadequate services keeping up with their education. Also, our local business has their challenges also with slow speeds and the Internet down from time to time.
“All of this points to the need for more infrastructure and capacity, for both broadband and cell service. But to me what is of most importance is providing for the students, so that they can be properly educated. This can only be accomplished by reallocation of funding to provide the necessary connections and equipment for our youth.”
Arizona’s Farmers and ranchers depend on broadband just as they do highways and railways to ship food and fiber across the country and around the world. Many of the latest yield-maximizing farming techniques require broadband connections for data collection and analysis performed both on the farm and in remote data centers. However, 29% of U.S. farms have no access to the Internet according the USDA report, “Farm Computer Usage and Ownership, 2017.”
And for decades, farmers and ranchers have embraced technology that allows their farming businesses to be more efficient, economical and environmentally friendly. For example, precision agricultural techniques to make decisions that impact the amount of fertilizer a farmer needs to purchase and apply to the field, the amount of water needed to sustain the crop, and the amount and type of herbicides or pesticides the farmer may need to apply become more and more ubiquitous in Arizona agriculture. These are only a few examples of the ways farmers use broadband connectivity to achieve optimal yield, lower environmental impact and maximize profits.
Rural Broadband on the Arizona Farm and Ranch
Reed Flake from Navajo County identifies with the challenges and importance of rural broadband. “Reliable access to broadband connectivity is critical to rural Arizona,” he explained. “Our businesses, schools, and communities rely on technology to function efficiently. As my family, like so many others, have shifted more of our daily responsibilities to within our home the past few months, the issue of sufficient internet access has been brought to the forefront. We have had to schedule schoolwork, college classes, video meetings and work schedules with other family members in our household based on our available bandwidth. Adequate broadband service is a vital component of the economy and quality of life for those that live and do business in rural Arizona.”
“ Rural broadband is a real limitation on our ranch operation but especially with our rural based, large animal veterinary practice,” explained Hayley Andrus, also Apache County Farm Bureau’s president.
Imagine what it is like out on the ranch and also while running a vet business. “We ranch and run a veterinary practice in Apache County, Arizona,” said Hayley Andrus, also Apache County Farm Bureau’s president. “Rural broadband is a real limitation on our ranch operation but especially with our rural based, large animal veterinary practice. Right now, we pay a lot for satellite internet which works semi-well in the mornings and gets progressively worse throughout the day. If the wind is blowing it does not work at all and the wind is always blowing! Our internet speed is 0.8 Mbps. Did you get that? Less than 1! It is most frustrating to our Veterinary business when we are needing to assign Health papers, keep up on Continuing Education courses and many other factors that are all online now. Would love to see a more viable option for the internet in rural Arizona.”
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