Back in 1936, 9 out of 10 farms across the US did not have electricity. The cost was simply too high to bring electricity to rural areas. That was until President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration and by 1945, an estimated 9 out of 10 farms were electrified. So, why are we talking about that today?
This sounds awfully familiar to the broadband issues facing rural households and farms here in 2018. Wally Tyner, Professor of Ag Economics at Purdue, recently completed a study that said for every dollar spent to deploy rural broadband, $4 would go back in to the economy over a 20-year period. Tyner said that healthcare is a large part of that, as well as education for kids and adults.
“In 5 years, I would predict that, for many of us, our first contact with the healthcare system will be talking to a doctor on the web and getting our vital signs transmitted electronically to that doctor and the doctor being able to make a good, informed decision about what the next step is.”
The study began with Tyner and his team studying the co-op serving Tippecanoe and Montgomery Counties, Tipmont REMC.
“Tipmont had planned on, and could if they get the financing, deploy in 3 years. Completely. And I think any co-op would tell you the same thing. Everybody that wants it would have service within 3 years.”
Obviously, the problem is funding. Tyner has given presentations to many government officials, including Governor Eric Holcomb (who allotted $100M to rural broadband through his Next Level initiative), Senator Todd Young, and other members of Congress.
“And what they’re all looking for is ways to do it. Federal government, state government, funds are limited. So, what they’re all looking for is ways to make it work. I haven’t encountered any politicians that said, ‘we shouldn’t do this.’ They did it before! They did it in 1936 for electricity and this is just as important.”
Broadband would also help farmers communicate with suppliers and market outlets, boosting farm income.
Tyner spoke at the 2018 Ag Policy Forum presented by the Indiana Soybean Alliance and the Indiana Corn Growers Association on November 27 in Boone County.