By Laura Withers
April 18, 2018
“Now is the time. Let’s get it done. And together we will.” – USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, April 18, 2018
NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association was a proud partner in the first event in a series of listening sessions focused on ways the government and private industries can work together to tackle rural broadband challenges and the opportunities improved e-connectivity bring to the people and economies of the nation’s rural regions. The first listening session, “What is on the Horizon for E-Connectivity,” took place on April 18 at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, D.C., and featured remarks from USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield and other representatives of small broadband and electric providers.
In addition to being a terrific display of industry collaboration—with five diverse groups backing the event—the session was an opportunity to hear from our country’s most prominent farming advocate on how greater broadband connectivity can improve agricultural practices by shaving time, effort and costs. Perdue spoke of technologies that allow farmers to increase productivity and decrease costs by spraying fertilizers on only the plants that need them—providing added benefits for the environment. “You can’t do that without being connected,” Perdue said.
Of course, the benefits of broadband connectivity do not stop there, and Perdue, Bloomfield and Pai also gave lip service to the positives of telemedicine, distance learning and providing young students a connection at home to be able to complete online homework assignments.
“We are excited for the prospects of enhanced cooperation and coordination between USDA, the FCC, and private operators like those in NTCA’s membership—all of whom recognize the value of and critical need for sustainable broadband in rural America,” said Bloomfield. “NTCA’s nearly 850 members connect many of America’s rural communities to the world with robust broadband, and we are pleased to participate in this collaborative effort to promote better access to rural broadband.”
Other organizations joining NTCA in the e-connectivity coalition and listening sessions are the Farm Foundation, CoBank, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation. To listen to an archived radio report about the session, visit the USDA website.