E-connectivity Listening Session
During a recent "E-connectivity Listening Session" hosted by the USDA, the rural broadband pilot program was discussed.
Will Gilmer is a Dairy Farmer and explains how improved e-connectivity on his operation could open doors, benefit his bottom line, and help people learn where their food comes from.
The USDA rural broadband pilot was created in the federal budget adopted earlier this year and targets rural areas where no more than 15% of residents can get broadband.
USDA Rural Broadband Pilot
The USDA rural broadband pilot was created in the federal budget adopted earlier this year and targets rural areas where no more than 15% of residents can get broadband at speeds of 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream. The USDA recently asked for input on a variety of decisions yet to be made about the program, including the speed that funding recipients will be required to deploy.
Miller noted on , though, that the USDA is "doing a lot of work behind the scenes" such as developing IT systems and a web portal to support the pilot. She said the USDA will provide technical assistance to those who want to put an application together.
She hinted that the USDA might consider criteria beyond simple need in determining who should get funding.
"Our hope is that this will be a drop in the bucket that catalyzes more investment," she said. She pointed to technologies such as precision agriculture, smart forestry, telehealth and distance learning as examples of how broadband can benefit rural areas, noting, "we hope the private sector will say 'I didn't realize there was a business case there.'"
She pointed to a hypothetical dairy farm as an example of how a business case might have been previously overlooked.
"To a telecom provider, a dairy farm looks like a household," she said. "But to us it might have 150 head of cattle and sell more than $150,000 worth of milk a year. That's more than a household."
Meanwhile at the FCC
Miller also pointed to a development at the FCC that may have gone unnoticed but could be important moving forward. She noted that the commission recently published a speed test protocol that could be used to provide an objective measure of the speeds actually available in an area.
"Some time they will be requiring recipients of FCC funds through the Universal Service Fund to be doing testing on a certain protocol in the evening," she said.