To help tell the story of poor broadband in rural communities, Indiana Farm Bureau surveyed its members to learn more about their day-to-day challenges with unreliable internet access. Of the 975 members who responded, 97% said having reliable high-speed broadband was important or extremely important to their future and the future of rural Indiana.
“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.”
The survey, which was distributed to INFB members in late February, asked questions ranging from the type of connection, reliability and speed, to the ability to access ag technology, e-learning programs and telehealth services.
Within hours of the survey’s distribution, INFB received over 100 responses. “That level of engagement reinforced why expanding broadband to the unserved and underserved is our top priority for the 2021 session,” Kron said.
A few highlights from INFB’s broadband survey, which was completed by members in every county, include:
- 40% said their internet service is occasionally to frequently out of service.
- 46% said their connection/speed for remote work is inadequate to poor.
- 48% said they participated in a telehealth visit in the last 12 months, but many experienced connection issues due to poor bandwidth.
- 53% said their connection/speed for farm technology, including data transfers, is inadequate to poor.
- 56% said their connection/speeds for their home-based business is inadequate to poor.
- 57% said their connection/speed for K-12 e-learning is inadequate to poor.
The personal stories shared by members about the day-to-day struggles with poor connections and the impact it has on families puts the challenges into perspective.
“Internet is no longer a luxury, like it was in the 1990s. Everything revolves around the internet – 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,” said Adam Wallace, Grant County farmer and INFB member. “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.”
“As a physician anesthesiologist who also manages our hospital’s ICU, I frequently needed to remotely access patient labs and radiology results during the COVID crisis. It was not only frustrating when I was unexpectedly not able to log in, but it detracted from safe patient care,” said Dr. Daniel Hesler, Fountain County farmer and INFB member. “Reliable internet is not just a modern convenience to stream Netflix. It is as essential as rural electrical service. It impacts economic viability in most of the land mass of the state.”
“As an older adult pursing my master’s degree, I can tell you that it’s extremely frustrating trying to attend online classes or take exams without reliable internet. I frequently have to go to my employer to take my exams or submit assignments to be sure that they are actually uploaded without any issues,” said Elisabeth McDonnell, Henry County farmer and INFB member. “On our farm, it is exceedingly difficult to manage daily activities, trading and downloads to run our business without proper internet speeds and bandwidth.”
“I work for an international company and occasionally have video calls with people from around the globe,” said Ryan Millet, Kosciusko County farmer and INFB member. “It’s hard to coordinate and organize those events. Poor and inadequate service is frustrating as it’s a reflection of me.”
With a month left in the 2021 legislative session, 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,” concluded Kron.