By Doris Mold, president of American Agri-Women

Technology has reached new heights across the globe, but on a more local level, the tools and resources now available to agriculture communities and production cannot be overlooked. In order to keep up with a growing connected global population, the continued access and growth of technology in our rural communities and agriculture sector is vital. However, proposed regulation from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) now threatens access to this crucial technology, and the agriculture community must respond.

The FCC regulation in question proposes capping prices for high-speed internet providers in geographic regions deemed "noncompetitive" within the broadband market. Due to a lack of current, and therefore accurate, data in their analysis, the FCC has determined that many of these "noncompetitive" regions are in fact our own rural communities. In reality, the most up-to-date data shows that competition is already thriving in these rural communities, and that further, unnecessary regulation would only harm the strength of the market.

If the FCC moves ahead with the regulation in its current form, providers would be significantly deterred from investing in broadband expansion in rural regions. Dr. James E. Prieger, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy, and former senior economist for the FCC, has explained that if this regulation passes, it will cause an estimated $1.4 billion of lost future investment in business broadband nationwide-a staggering loss, not only to rural communities, but to the national economy in which the agriculture depends on.

In addition to decreased investment in rural opportunities, the proposed cap on prices in the market will also harm broadband providers' ability to continue maintenance on the current network infrastructure. Network facilities require ongoing maintenance, the limit on revenue available to providers would negate any funds available to maintain existing facilities and adequate operations. The proposed regulations simply don't take into account any of these costs.

Ultimately, if investment in high-speed internet access in our rural communities is halted, so too will the ability to remain competitive in today's globally connected market. This regulation would affect all aspects of our rural communities. Not only would agribusinesses, producers, and farmers be affected, but our schools and the opportunities available for students to compete with urban centers would be greatly diminished.

This regulation is a no-win situation for the agricultural community, and, in turn, the country as a whole. The FCC must reconsider its proposed plans, and with it the potentially debilitating effects to our rural and agricultural communities.

Doris Mold operates a dairy farm in Wisconsin. She is also the president of American Agri-Women.


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