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May 17, 2018

King Backs Bipartisan Legislation To Promote High-Speed Internet Deployment to Nation’s Farms & Ranches

Bill aims to grow precision agriculture and availability of rural broadband.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) announced his support for legislation to promote precision agriculture and rural broadband deployment. The “Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018” would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a task force to identify gaps in high-speed internet connectivity for the nation’s cropland and ranchland.  The measure also instructs the agency to develop ways to help encourage broadband adoption and precision agriculture and to promote broadband deployment in areas where it is currently unavailable.

“Maine’s farmers are the backbone of rural communities across our state, and we should find solutions that help them increase their output and reach new markets,” said Senator King. “By investing in precision agriculture and rural broadband, we can help Maine farms maximize their yields, reduce costs, and be better equipped to compete in the global marketplace.”

“Broadband connectivity can support our rural farmers and their farm businesses in many ways, including utilization of tools and technologies to enhance their practices, and improving access to markets and other timely information that is difficult to obtain without reliable and consistent broadband service,” said Amanda Beal, President and CEO of Maine Farmland Trust.

Precision agriculture describes the use of mobile devices, robotics, field sensors, remote monitoring, and other technologies to manage agricultural production. Farmers and ranchers who use the technology can significantly increase crop yields, streamline operations, and reduce production expenses. In many areas of the United States, reliable, high-speed internet connections are not consistently available to support precision agriculture operations.

The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Tina Smith, (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.).

Specifically, the legislation asks the newly-created FCC task force 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 that the FCC and other Federal agencies should take to obtain reliable and standardized data measurements of broadband coverage as may be necessary to target funding support to unserved croplands and ranchlands;
  • 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; and
  • 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.

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