This week Senior Editor Jodie Wehrspann and I got the chance to sit down with a major farm equipment maker to discuss new tech and the future of some of its products. We'll be reporting on what we saw in the near future, but during our conversation an interesting concept popped up - the need for better rural broadband access.
Every major equipment manufacturer, and for that matter most seed companies, are doing more with data and information every day. So are we here at Farm Industry News and we're counting on you having a better Web connection every year. As your need for information and data management grow, this piece of rural infrastructure gains value, and importance.
Yet, if your farm is working with the electronic equivalent of two Campbell's Soup cans and some kite string to communicate, this'll break down pretty fast. USDA Rural Development has been investing in this infrastructure since the Bush 2 administration and the work continues, the challenge is that while AT&T and Verizon push hard for 4G LTE wireless service (which can offer very fast speeds) they're looking at number of subscribers, not acres covered. That can leave you behind.
Many of you reading this may have a DSL - digital subscriber line - or some other wireline service to your farm, but it may be first generation stuff. We're talking the need for cable-modem speeds of 40 megabytes per second or faster to keep up with growing data needs. Right now a lot of the rural "broadband" you may have access to, won't be fast enough either.
As more tractors log on to talk to each other; as more farmers pass more information from agronomist to seed dealer and more, that's a lot of bits floating around out there. The data pipeline you use will need to be big enough to allow those bits to flow, and they aren’t.
Usually I recommend farmers reevaluate their Web connection once every five years to see what high-speed options may have popped up while you were busy doing other things - like farm. Now may be the time to see how much faster your data can flow before future bottlenecks occur. It's worth checking out. And if you find your options low and slow, perhaps a call to your Congressman is in order. I'm not kidding.
The rural broadband issue is important and you want to raise attention to it BEFORE it's a problem for your farm. If you wait until you're hitting data bottlenecks, you'll be waiting for some time. Something to consider.
When I write about tech, it's easy to get excited about what's new and shiny, but if that new and shiny product has to work on an antiquated infrastructure it'll lose its luster pretty quickly.
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