March 5, 2020 – The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act (S. 1822). The bill, approved by the Senate last year, will now go to President Trump for his signature. The following statement may be attributed to Maryland Farm Bureau President Wayne Stafford.
“Broadband access is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity for our farmers and rural communities. This legislation will improve the National Broadband Map to more accurately identify where there is and is not broadband service.
“Once a more accurate broadband map is created, broadband providers will be able to apply for federal grant money and will be more likely to receive that grant funding for underserved areas. This means greater access to healthcare, government services, educational and business opportunities, and a greater quality of life in rural communities.
The DATA Act requires broadband providers to report more specific data to create a significantly more accurate and granular National Broadband Map. With more precise data, federal agencies can target funding to areas that need it most. Current broadband coverage maps are inadequate because they rely on census block data to determine which areas are covered. Census blocks are too large in rural and remote locations to accurately determine need. If even one household in a given census block is reported by a provider as being served, then the entire block is considered served. Census blocks larger than 2 square miles comprise more than 64% of the U.S. land area, so every rural area is impacted by this problem in some way.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Computer Usage and Ownership report states that 23% of Maryland farms don’t have reliable internet access. The report also identifies satellite as the most common method for farm owners to access internet.