data on the farm

Today’s Farm Requires Access to Wireless Broadband

Access to wireless networks is crucial for today's farmers.

As a native South Dakotan who’s devoted much of my career to strengthening rural America, I’ve seen my share of farm equipment. So I’ve been delighted twice this year to observe John Deere’s latest machinery in action. 

Deere’s new machines are sleeker – and less bumpy – than the ones I was around as a kid. And there’s one other big difference: The “Internet of Things” now includes “Farm Things.” All of which explains why John Deere is an active member of my organization, PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association.

Much of today’s agricultural equipment depends in a growing measure on access to wireless networks. Wireless broadband-powered farm equipment, along with laptops, tablets, and smart phones, are now as instrumental in the efficient management of a farm as rural electrification was in the past.

Deere’s wireless service, JDLink, enables farmers to monitor the productivity and maintenance of tractors and other machines while they’re operating – and assess their effectiveness after they’re back in the barn. Wireless connections allow farmers to analyze their machines’ fuel usage, improve their productivity, and – not incidentally – cover more acres in less time.

Wireless data transfer technology also permits farmers to access their individual data from anywhere – whether they’re at the farmhouse or meeting with buyers in Chicago – enabling them to make informed decisions about crop yield, harvesting, and how best to get their product to market.

Jonathan Adelstein, President and CEO of PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association, addresses FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, John Deere employees, congressional staffers, and others at an October 9 PCIA-Deere sponsored ‘connected farm’ event in White Hall, MD. The purpose of the event was to educate policymakers about the need to strengthen wireless connectivity in rural America.

Yet cutting-edge farm technology only scratches the surface of how wireless broadband is helping rural Americans lead healthier, safer, and more productive lives.  

Wireless connections bring life-saving telemedicine and life-changing educational opportunities to residents throughout Rural America. Health care information and services that only a few years ago would have taken critical hours or days to reach rural patients can now get to physicians or clinics instantly. Thanks to wireless broadband, a rural high school student researching a paper for class can now have the same access to sophisticated data as a student anywhere in the country.

A white paper that PCIA recently commissioned, however, points out that all these benefits require that we continue to expand and improve America’s wireless networks. Simply put, they don’t work without robust rural broadband capacity.

Allocating additional spectrum to wireless broadband is important – but that will only go so far in meeting rural America’s demand for speedy access to data, where spectrum constraints are not the primary issue.  This country needs to revitalize its private-public partnership to build next-generation wireless infrastructure so we can bridge the wireless gap, meeting the unprecedented demand for data use. Rural Americans deserve the same connectivity as their more urban counterparts.   

I never dreamed growing up in South Dakota that there would come a day a tractor’s contributions to a farm’s productivity would be so huge – and able to be instantly quantified.  Nor did I dream that our local hospitals, schools, and libraries would have the same access to information as the world’s leading institutions.  But that day has come.  Let’s make sure we build on that success.

Jonathan Adelstein, a former FCC Commissioner and Administrator of USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, is the CEO and President of PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association.

The opinions of Jonathan Adelstein are not necessarily those of Penton Farm Progress.

TAGS: Broadband
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