Smart agriculture and the role that broadband plays in delivering new technologies was the discussion of the day up on Capitol Hill as our Foundation for Rural Service and NTCA’s Smart Rural Community programs hosted a summit, “Smart Agriculture: Broadband Technology at Our Nation’s Farms.”
Mark Lewellen, manager of spectrum advocacy for John Deere, gave a technical demonstration of how connected farms are today and how much more connectivity will be needed in the future. I loved that Mark received numerous questions from the audience, everything from whose spectrum John Deere is using (currently AT&T but looking to create more flexible options in the future) to how schools can do a better job training young farmers while they are still in school on how to use technology (highlighting of course the importance of students having broadband access at home so their education never needs to stop, which is one of the reasons why USF high-cost support is so important for rural citizens and their future opportunities).
The American Farm Bureau Federation, NRTC, the National FFA and Partner Communications Cooperative (Gilman, Iowa) participated on a panel sharing their thoughts and insights on the intersection of broadband and agriculture. Many synergies were found through the course of the discussion.
Across town, another important discussion was ongoing. Verizon hosted a workshop on call completion at the National Press Club. Lee VonGunten from Craigville Telephone was a member of one of the panel sessions and shared with those in attendance the deep level of frustration with the inability of policymakers to stop this epidemic. Jason Neumeier from Telephone Service Co., Fritz Hendricks from Onvoy and Bob Gnapp from NECA also provided perspective on how this issue is impacting business and the difficulties with resolving chronic issues. It really is time to deal with this issue that has been the source of significant harm to small business, public safety and the reliability of networks when least cost routers simply choose to drop calls to rural America rather than pay to access those networks. The stories are important to share, and I have admired NTCA members who have continued to share theirs.