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AFBF: Broadband Internet critical for rural America

People who live and work in rural America are often unable to access the same educational, medical, business and government services as Americans living in more populated areas, and access to modern broadband Internet service has the potential to correct this inequity, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

AFBF sent comments in early June to the Federal Communications Commission on the development of a national broadband plan by the FCC. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama earlier this year requires the FCC to develop a comprehensive broadband plan by Feb. 17, 2010.

"In the 21st century, broadband Internet access is a necessity, not a luxury," said AFBF President Bob Stallman. "To be economically viable, rural communities must have high speed Internet connections for people to access everything from medical records to weather reports to online videos. It is vital for rural residents who want to telecommute to a job in the city and for rural students to complete their class assignments."

In the letter to the FCC, AFBF stressed the need for affordable broadband access for farmers, many who run their businesses from their homes. Affordable home broadband access is important for keeping American agriculture competitive in the world marketplace, according to AFBF.

AFBF urged the FCC to consider location when determining broadband availability and to consider price or marketplace competition in determining access to broadband services. AFBF also said broadband should be designated as a "supported service" eligible to receive support directly from the Universal Services Fund. AFBF said broadband deployment should be increased through any technology, including wireless.

AFBF's letter to the FCC can be accessed here: http://www.fb.org/newsroom/nr/nr2009/06-08-09/broadband-FCC09-0604.pdf.

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