Precision Agriculture Task Force Seeks Better Broadband Mapping, Rural Priority

The task force, mandated by the 2018 Farm Bill, pushed both the FCC and USDA on mapping and subsidies.

Precision Agriculture Task Force Seeks Better Broadband Mapping, Rural Priority
Screenshot of a task force meeting in July.

WASHINGTON, November 6, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission’s Precision Agriculture Task Force voted on Monday to adopt a new slate of recommendations for the commission.

The task force will ask the FCC and the Department of Agriculture to further improve broadband mapping efforts, prioritize subsidies for broadband on agricultural land, and take a host of other measures to ensure farmers have adequate broadband as the industry relies more on data and analytics.

Mandated by the 2018 Farm Bill, the task force is a joint effort of the FCC and USDA to study connectivity needs for precision agriculture – cultivating crops with the assistance of computational tools – and how to meet those needs in the future.

The task force is made up of subject experts split into four working groups with different focuses: agricultural broadband mapping, connectivity needs for precision agriculture, agricultural broadband deployment, and precision agriculture jobs and workplace standards.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel rechartered the task force in August for what will be its final term, concluding in 2025.

On the mapping front, the task force will be pushing for higher resolution in the FCC’s BDC map. It will also recommend including more information in the map, like information on where coverage has been validated in the ground and some agriculture-specific building information.

Multiple working groups mentioned reforms to the USDA’s ReConnect program, a broadband subsidy set up by the 2021 Infrastructure Act. Task force staff said it should be amended to focus on funding infrastructure that would connect farms to high-speed broadband.

Those recommendations echo ones the task force put forward in November 2021, when it also asked for improved broadband mapping and data collection in addition to funding incentives.

Task force members also approved language expressing qualified support for the Last Acre Act, a bill introduced in the Senate in July. It would establish a fund under the FCC to provide the support for agricultural broadband projects.

Members had reservations about certain provisions of the law, like stringent eligibility requirements, but supported the spirit of funding broadband on farmland.

The task force will be submitting the approved recommendations to the FCC and USDA next week, said Task Force Chair Teddy Bekele.

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