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AFBF: High-speed broadband critical for farmers

Unserved and underserved rural areas should be the priority for more than $7 billion in funding to implement new high-speed broadband Internet access, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. In comments to two federal agencies, AFBF stated that broadband service would bolster rural communities and families by giving them enhanced access to health care, education and business opportunities.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service and the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration requested comments on both allocation of the funding and implementation of new broadband services. In response, AFBF pointed out that the intent of Congress in recently passed legislation was to provide broadband services to unserved and underserved areas of the nation.

"America's farmers and ranchers need viable rural communities for the goods and services required for their agricultural operations," said AFBF President Bob Stallman. "They also need affordable high-speed broadband service to access markets, weather reports, and government agencies."

The letter noted that unserved and underserved areas that lack access to a modern high-speed telecommunications infrastructure are predominantly in rural America and called for the vast majority of funds to be allocated to meet the needs of those communities. These same communities often lack access to the capital necessary to address infrastructure needs, making broadband access even more critical.

"Connecting unserved and underserved rural communities to high-speed, affordable broadband services should be a funding priority" when grant applicants are considered, according to AFBF.

AFBF also noted that retail price should be one of the primary considerations when awarding funding. In rural areas, broadband service must be affordable for the majority of businesses and residents to benefit from subscribing to the service.

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