Update on Rural Broadband in Congress
Broadband is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. Here at Arizona Farm Bureau, we understand that rural broadband is essential to modern agriculture, the farmers and ranchers who grow our food and the quality of life in rural America. While most people take broadband for granted, 25% of U.S. farms have no access to the internet.
In the past several years, we have made great strides to educate members of Congress about the importance of investing in rural broadband – especially for the agriculture industry. The 2018 Farm Bill included a provision that created a task force to focus on the connectivity and technology needs of precision agriculture. And we are happy to report that the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Task Force includes Farm Bureau representation and continues to meet regularly.
Last year, the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Act (Broadband DATA Act) was signed into law. This comprehensive bipartisan bill improves the accuracy of broadband coverage maps and better directs federal funds for broadband buildout.
The need for investments in rural broadband was especially brought to light during the pandemic when everything from health care to education relied on broadband connectivity. In response, Congress provided additional funding and established several new programs for broadband through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act.
While we appreciate the recent attention to and investments in rural broadband, there is still work that can be done at the federal level to both secure additional funds and ensure infrastructure is built in a timely fashion. Therefore, the Arizona Farm Bureau supports both the Eliminating Barriers to Rural Internet Development Grant Eligibility (EBRIDGE) Act, which will provide additional investments in USDA rural broadband programs while prioritizing rural areas most underserved, and the Broadband for Rural America Act, which will remove hurdles for broadband projects, including last-mile efforts that often delay rural broadband deployment.
To contact you members of Congress and share how improving rural broadband would help your farm and community, click here.