e-Connectivity for all rural Americans is a modern-day necessity.
Reliable and affordable high-speed internet e-Connectivity, or electronic connectivity, is fundamental for economic activity throughout the US. Access to high-speed internet is vital for a diverse set of industries, including agricultural production, manufacturing, mining, and forestry and acts as a catalyst for rural prosperity by enabling efficient, modern communications between rural American households, schools, and healthcare centers as well as markets and customers around the world. This is why the Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Task Force recommended e-Connectivity for all rural Americans because it is a modern-day necessity – not simply an amenity – in today’s information-driven global economy.
Unfortunately, 80 percent of the 24 million American households that do not have reliable, affordable high-speed internet are in rural areas, according to a recent report by the Federal Communications Commission.
USDA is Investing in Rural Broadband
USDA has been investing in rural telecommunications infrastructure for decades, and our current programs offer more than $700 million per year for modern broadband e-Connectivity in rural communities.
In the coming months, USDA will almost double these longstanding programs with at least $600 million of additional funds for expanding rural broadband infrastructure in unserved rural areas and tribal lands.
This new funding option was created by the United States Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, as an ambitious initiative to rebuild America’s infrastructure. Recommended by President Trump as a “first installment” of his bold proposal to restore and modernize the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, this pilot program will carry out our commitment to invest in rural America.See current programs
What is e-Connectivity
Rural e-connectivity will once again put the U.S. at the top of the world's productivity by fostering economic development, job growth, rural entrepreneurship, and innovative technologies. This will require that every part of the farm — not just the farmhouse – will be connected to the worldwide web.
To “Do Right and Feed Everyone,” American farms need reliable, real-time internet connectivity to oversee operations in the fields, manage finances, and respond to international market conditions. e-Connectivity can help farmers predict needed production inputs, increase yields, and access more customers worldwide.
Rural communities need access to telemedicine opportunities and tools to fight the opioid epidemic.
Preventing uncontrolled access to erroneously-prescribed medications requires pharmacies to be connected to real-time controlled substances (opioid) registries, and rural healthcare providers demand high-speed internet for distance learning and training on how to identify and treat addiction.
Moreover, remote access to addiction treatment counseling requires reliable e-Connectivity for telehealth visits.
Rural students should have the same tools for “digital homework” and self-paced learning pursuits that urban kids enjoy. Including being able to do their homework at home, rather than having to drive miles and miles to a Wi-Fi hotspot in town. Likewise, students should be able to quickly and easily download the same educational videos as urban and suburban students. Adult learners require modern connectivity to engage in university, community college, and trade and technical school degree and professional certification programs.
The global digital marketplace is ripe for e-commerce products and services from rural businesses. Modern e-Connectivity for rural America holds great promise for expansion of rural entrepreneurship, which is only possible from ubiquitous broadband e-Connectivity.
Next Generation Precision Ag & Broadband Report
USDA embarked on a groundbreaking analysis about the potential benefits of rural broadband infrastructure and emerging on-farm technology for modernizing the United States’ agriculture industry and all who depend on its success.
We found that enhancing digital agriculture technologies already in use today - and increasing producers’ usage to full-scale - could create at least $47 billion each year in additional gross benefit for the U.S. economy. Rural broadband e-connectivity is the driver of more than one-third of that potential value, equal to $18 billion of annual economic improvements for our nation.
Read the report (PDF, 2.5 MB) released in April 2019 that describes how Next Generation Precision Agriculture technologies can be deployed together with high-capacity, reliable Internet services to America’s farms and ranches, including:
- How e-connectivity creates value through digital transformation
- The potential impact of Internet-connected agricultural technologies to the U.S. economy
- What the agriculture ecosystem needs to unlock this value
- Proposed strategies to make this potential a reality
FCC and USDA Working Together for Precision Agriculture
On June 17, 2019, the Federal Communications Commission Chairman (FCC) Ajit Pai announced the formation of a new task force dedicated to advising the Commission on policies aimed at delivering connectivity so that American agriculture producers can use and benefit from precision agriculture. The task force, which stems from the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, will work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop policy recommendations to promote the rapid, expanded deployment of broadband Internet access service on unserved agricultural land. Applications are due to the FCC on or before July 17, 2019.
The new federal advisory committee, formally called the Task Force for Reviewing the Connectivity and Technology Needs of Precision Agriculture in the United States, will provide the FCC with outside, expert advice on the needs and impact of telecommunications policy on the deployment of agricultural technology. The USDA will serve as an ex officio non-voting member and will act as a consultant and resource to the FCC as they manage this important mission for rural America.
An easy-to-use guide to USDA resources such as grants, loans, partnerships and in-person consultations, that support e-Connectivity and aim to help you find the opportunity that best fulfills their need.
Rural Development Broadband ReConnect Program
This innovative program furnishes loans and grants to provide funds for the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas.
American Broadband Initiative Milestones Report
This report outlines the roadmap for how the Federal Government is working to increase broadband access and actions that Agencies are taking to increase private-sector investment in broadband.
USDA Wants Your Input on Rural Broadband e-Connectivity!
USDA will be analyzing multiple factors as it sets up the e-Connectivity Pilot program to make the program effective and accessible to all rural Americans. To best bridge the e-Connectivity gap in rural America, USDA wants to hear the thoughts and needs of those individuals living and doing business in rural communities. Only through your participation can this program succeed in making rural America great again, so please share your user and service provider feedback, insights and ideas, on the many factors we’re considering, including:
- How affordable and reliable should rural broadband service be?
- What time-of-day (morning, afternoon or evening) do rural residents and businesses most need to use high-speed internet?
- How fast of internet connectivity is needed for business management, e-commerce, farming, ranching, education, and medical/healthcare purposes in rural areas, especially for large data transfers and real-time communications?
- What tools are available and in use today, to check if the internet is accessible at 10 mbps/1 mbps speeds at households in rural areas?
- Which types of broadband technologies are most applicable for various types of rural areas such as cable, fiber, mobile wireless, fixed wireless, and satellite?
- How is the best way to prioritize rural broadband investments, in terms of evaluating lower costs and shorter times to complete construction, need for government financial support, and other factors?