Governor Larry Hogan recently announced a $9.9 million funding package to provide reliable internet access for 225,000 Marylanders in rural communities. This funding is part of the first wave of a five-year plan.
“Broadband access is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity,” says John Draper, 2nd Vice President of Maryland Farm Bureau. “Our rural residents need reliable internet for health care access, government services, educational and business opportunities, and a greater quality of life.”
According to the Federal Communications Commission, 6.3% of Marylanders living in rural areas lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps compared to 1.9% of urban residents. The counties with the least available access include Garrett (32.9%), Allegany (22.3%), and Charles (21.9%).
Rural broadband is also essential for agriculture, providing access to global markets and for the use of precision agriculture. Farmers rely on this technology to follow commodity markets, communicate with customers, and to ensure regulatory compliance.
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.
“Precision agriculture is one of the greatest tools we have for conservation and innovation – but we need coverage in the farm fields to use it,” says Draper. “We appreciate Governor Hogan’s support in finding solutions for broadband improvement throughout the state.”