Expanded wireless broadband: A necessity for rural America

We need real-time market information when making business decisions, ranging from the price of grain to the price of cattle, as well as access to key government statistics and for buying necessary equipment. The Internet provides the quickest and most efficient means for obtaining this information. 

This, of course, depends on access to broadband technologies, which is why the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association is supportive of any effort that promises to expand this technology across rural America, much of which is under or unserved today by the latest and greatest networks.

Regardless of the provider offering its services, one of the primary communities to benefit from a nationwide high-speed broadband network is rural America. Continued investment in and the cultivation of next-generation wireless networks that allow fast and reliable Internet access is critical for rural communities across the U.S., not only for agricultural business advancement, but also for healthcare, education and societal needs.

In many parts of rural America, mobile voice and broadband connections are faulty or non-existent, depriving many residents of optimal access to resources such as critical educational tools, global information, economic opportunities and healthcare services. If this trend continues – with some communities developing from broadband access at a rapid pace, and others continuing to operate without such access – then the rural divide will continue to grow, leaving many residents and businesses at a disadvantage, in many aspects of commercial and societal life.

Dramatically expanding the reach and power of rural broadband offerings will significantly bridge this gap, offering access to millions more Americans in harder-to-reach communities, and allowing them to reap the same benefits of those in large cities.

The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association joins the chorus of growing support among rural groups from across the country that realize the considerable community benefits of a top-line wireless network. Expanded wireless broadband will lead to increased productivity, generating additional revenue and more jobs on each end of the small business spectrum. A February 2011 study from the Rural Cellular Association titled “Economic Impact of Wireless Broadband in Rural America,” found that making wired and mobile broadband fully available in previously underserved areas could create or save 116,862 jobs between 2011 and 2014.

Agriculture is the lifeblood of numerous small towns and communities across this country. As such, it is critical that our elected officials support policies that promote healthy, productive agricultural businesses and rural communities as a whole, as well as innovative business plans to help achieve success.

America’s ranchers know firsthand how valuable communications is in the agricultural world. Being online has supercharged, for example, the sale barns — live auctions in which cattle and other livestock are sold to the highest bidder — that we rely on for our economic survival. Getting sale barns online has allowed us to expand our reach around the world. And a slower, unreliable, and immobile broadband only holds us back.

The expansion of next-generation wireless broadband envisioned by the T-Mobile and AT&T merger, for example, is critical for the next stage of rural America’s evolution and success. It will allow ranchers, farmers, and all rural residents who have been traditionally underserved to finally gain access to the best that mobile broadband has to offer, including faster and more reliable connections. We strongly encourage the Federal Communications Commission to support these developments as an investment in both the current and future generations of agricultural producers and small communities across rural America.

A 5th generation rancher and Montana native, Jess Peterson is the president of Western Skies Strategies (WSS) and represents the United States Cattlemen's Association (USCA) as its executive vice president.