Denver – The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union board of directors, meeting this week endorsed comprehensive broadband legislation introduced by Representative John Salazar (D-CO). “Internet access in the United States is more than 70 percent broadband, and yet many rural communities do not have broadband access at all,” said Jan Kochis, RMFU Board Chair and Matheson, Colorado, farmer/rancher. “Congressman Salazar’s bill addresses this inequity.”
The legislation (H.R. 2174) would amend the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 to establish an Office of Rural Broadband Initiatives in the Department of Agriculture. This office would develop a plan to facilitate broadband access in rural areas, coordinate rural broadband grant and loan programs, establish a fund to invest in innovations that can improve rural broadband access, and create a rural broadband advisory panel of citizens and corporate representatives to provide guidance to the federal office.
Broadband is an economic and social necessity for farmers and ranchers who must depend on the internet for timely and complete market reports and weather information. Food producers attempting to direct-market their produce over the internet also require robust service to support the online transactions.
Without broadband service, rural children are disadvantaged educationally and families in rural areas may have to depend on the internet not only for information but also for merchandise and necessities. “Rural children should have the same fair chance at a good education as any American child,” Kochis said. “Rural families should not be penalized financially for their commitment to feeding America.”