Farm Bureau survey: Broadband critical in state’s rural areas | Business

At the beginning of the 2021 legislative session, officials with the Indiana Farm Bureau said their top priority would be addressing the struggles the organization’s membership is experiencing with unreliable internet access.

According to a recent survey of those members, that priority seems well placed.

Nearly 1,000 of the bureau’s members responded, and 97% of them said access to reliable high-speed broadband was important or extremely important to their future.

“Hearing directly from our members about their struggles with internet access helps us advocate on behalf of them,” said Randy Kron, INFB president. “What was most interesting about the survey were the hundreds of personal stories explaining the frustrations of trying to stay connected with the outside world.”

“Everything revolves around the internet,” said Adam Wallace, a farmer in Grant County. “It’s how we operate our farm. Our kids use it for school and our family uses it to stream movies and browse the web.

“Making broadband more available and affordable would make rural Indiana more appealing to people and businesses who are looking to move outside of city limits.”

The survey, distributed to INFB members in late February, asked questions ranging from the type of connection, reliability and speed, to the ability to access agricultural technology, e-learning programs and telehealth services.

With a month left in this year’s legislative session, Kron said the INFB will continue to work with lawmakers, urging them to increase required upload and download speeds and funding for the Next Level Grant Program, as well as provide additional funding mechanisms for local governments to invest in broadband infrastructure.

“The need for high-quality broadband to the last mile, last home and last acre has become as essential as electricity or water,” Kron said.

Follow Andy Knight on Twitter @Andrew_J_Knight, or call 765-640-4809.