February 16, 2009

Farmers and High Speed Internet

Interesting post from Daily Yonder mining the USDA's 2007 Census of Agriculture to look at high speed internet access in rural areas.


The whole thing is interesting but here's the final summary:
The Census asked only two questions pertaining to the Internet: Did the farm operator at any time in 2007 have internet access? And, did the farm operator have a high speed Internet connection? The Census did not ask about price or the kind of connection the operator purchased — DSL, cable, satellite.

The nation has little sense of who has and who lacks broadband connections in rural America. The Senate stimulus bill, in fact, requires the Department of Commerce to prepare “a comprehensive nationwide inventory map of existing broadband service capability and availability in the United States.”

Until that report is completed, however, the Ag Census may have the most complete survey of broadband availability and use in rural America.

The Census collected answers from so many rural residents — more than 1.3 million farms ranging from mega-ranches in Texas to hobby farms in Washington — that it gives a good picture of how deeply broadband has penetrated into rural America.

The map at the top of this story shows a clear divide between the eastern and western United States. Farms east of the Mississippi River, especially in the South, use broadband Internet far less than those farms in the Great Plains, the Mountain West and the Pacific coast. Some states are clearly more broadband-savvy than others.

Is that because of the local economy, state policy, national broadband initiatives, local government? It’s impossible to tell, but the variation in broadband use across rural America is so large that it raises questions about the extent of economic and social inequality among rural communities.

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