Author Topic: Congress wants you to pay for farmers' high-speed internet  (Read 375 times)

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Online rangerrebew

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Congress wants you to pay for farmers' high-speed internet
« on: February 01, 2014, 05:59:05 PM »
Congress wants you to pay for farmers’ high-speed Internet

   January 31, 2014  /   7 Comments


By Josh Peterson | Watchdog.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Contained in a bill at the center of the federal food stamp debate is a provision that would fund a five-year build out of high speed Internet networks to select rural communities.

The House of Representatives earlier this week passed after a two-year battle the Agricultural Act of 2014 — otherwise known as the Farm Bill — by a 251-166 bipartisan vote. The Senate could vote on its version the bill as early as next Tuesday.

The bill, which would fund farm subsidies for the next five-years, includes a provision that establishes a $10 million per year Gigabit Internet pilot program within the United States Department of Agriculture‘s Rural Utilities Service‘s  broadband program.

The new USDA RUS pilot program would fund the development of as many as five rural high-speed networks during the next five years.

RUS did not return Watchdog.org’s request for comment by the time of publication.

Gigabit Internet speeds are at least 100 times faster than most high-speed Internet connections currently available to consumers, allowing households and businesses to do more on the Internet at faster speeds. Google‘s Google Fiber service in Kansas City, and Provo, Utah, is one example of a gigabit Internet service.

Policy experts fear a growing digital divide between rural and urban communities will leave farmers and other small business owners in rural communities, as well as their children, technologically behind the rest of the country and the rest of the world, increasing gaps in the nation’s economic inequality.

R.J. Karney, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, a top agriculture industry lobby group, told Watchdog.org that farmers and ranchers rely on information available on the Internet to compete in what has become an international marketplace.

“They are running a small business, and they need to be able to function like a small business,” said Karney.

For example, Karney explained, farmers and ranchers who are connected to the Internet use it to know when they should sell crops and livestock.

The USDA reported in August 2011 that 62 percent of U.S. farmers have access to the Internet. In August 2013, the department reported that 35 percent of farmers were using DSL connections, while 5 percent were still using slower dial-up Internet.

“The Internet is past the luxury phase,” said he, emphasizing its importance to American small businesses. “It’s part of every day life.”

The speed of technological change also was a concern for Karney, explaining the need for a long-term solution.

“Farmers and ranchers don’t want to have one speed, but then in five to 10 years they’re left in the dark again,” said Karney.

High speed Internet also was important for rural hospitals and schools, he said.

When voicing concerns about the urban-rural digital divide, Internet service providers also commonly talk about the high costs of connecting rural communities.

David Carle, spokesman for Vermont Democrat U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, stressed to Watchdog.org, however, that private sector investment was not adequately addressing the issue.

Leahy championed the amendment to the Senate’s Farm Bill that would establish the pilot program.

“The Farm Bill reformed USDA’s rural access broadband loan program to focus on rural areas that don’t already meet a minimum level of broadband service,” said Carle in an email response to Watchdog.org.

“These are rural areas that already are running well behind the rest of the country,” said Carle. ”So it hasn’t seemed that private investment alone is getting that job done.”

The benefits of government investment in the broadband market, however, are debatable.

Watchdog.org has reported on numerous failed government-funded broadband projects affecting communities in Minnesota and Tennessee that are costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

But for smaller companies looking to build high-speed Internet networks, government funding is an attractive option.

TDS Telecommunications Corp., for example, received 44 different RUS awards under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The company is boasting 13 completed projects and expects to have all but one completed between March and April. TDS’ project in Arizona is expected to be completed by the end of the year, ahead of RUS’ June 2015 deadline.

“As a telecommunications provider focused on reliability, we applied for and received RUS broadband stimulus grants from the USDA to fortify our existing network and local exchange areas with fiber-optic and electronic networking gear capable of providing high-speed Internet access,” TDS spokesperson Cindy Tomilson said in an email response to Watchdog.org.

“We maintain the technicians, field services staff and network engineers skilled in the telecommunications industry sector,” said Tomilson. ”Applying for these grants was the market solution that was most cost effective, forward-looking and appropriate for our customers, our employees and our communities.”

Robert Steurer, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, told Watchdog.org that he expects the Farm Bill to pass through the Senate intact.

http://watchdog.org/126502/farm-bill-internet/
« Last Edit: February 01, 2014, 05:59:57 PM by rangerrebew »
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Offline Oceander

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Re: Congress wants you to pay for farmers' high-speed internet
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2014, 06:06:42 PM »
Farmers are some of the biggest welfare queens.

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Re: Congress wants you to pay for farmers' high-speed internet
« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2014, 06:26:33 PM »
Farmers are some of the biggest welfare queens.

You've never been a farmer, have you.

Want them not to need subsidy? Pay two dollars for your burger instead of one. How much are eggs worth to you? Not the 3 cent profit per half dozen the farmer gets. Buy a pork loin? The guy who raised it gets maybe 5 cents from that, when all his costs are factored in.

Salads? You eat healthy sometimes. It's a delicate crop and a single hard rain can wipe it out completely.

There is a choice in farming. Stay small and rely on locals to buy your produce, or go big and cut a deal with large businesses, who have you over the proverbial barrel and who don't bother with lube when they bend you over. They set the prices. You are responsible for delivering at the price they set.
Anyone who tells you you can't buy happiness has never been in a book store or an animal shelter.

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Re: Congress wants you to pay for farmers' high-speed internet
« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2014, 06:38:49 PM »
You've never been a farmer, have you.

Want them not to need subsidy? Pay two dollars for your burger instead of one. How much are eggs worth to you? Not the 3 cent profit per half dozen the farmer gets. Buy a pork loin? The guy who raised it gets maybe 5 cents from that, when all his costs are factored in.

Salads? You eat healthy sometimes. It's a delicate crop and a single hard rain can wipe it out completely.

There is a choice in farming. Stay small and rely on locals to buy your produce, or go big and cut a deal with large businesses, who have you over the proverbial barrel and who don't bother with lube when they bend you over. They set the prices. You are responsible for delivering at the price they set.

The big-business-will-screw-you meme doesn't withstand any real scrutiny.  I remember when an IBM PC luggable, with 640k of memory, one 5-1/4" disk drive, and a processor with a clock speed that could be measured in hamster-rpms cost US $1,700, back when that was real money ($1,700 in 1986 dollars, which is the comparison I'm using, is approximately $3,500 in 2012 dollars, and so is probably about $3,550 in 2014 dollars).  The last computer I purchased, way back in 2009, cost me $1,200 (which would be about $650 in 1986 dollars), has a clock speed measured in gigaherz, came with 6GB of RAM, with room for more, a 500GB hard drive with an open slot for a second drive, an optical drive, and network connections that were nonexistent in 1986.

And all of that comes from an industry that is basically dominated by two CPU manufacturers and a number of other large foundries for a lot of the other chips and processing units - the CPU, of course, is the crucial component in this case.

So, we have an industry that produces a product that is considered a necessity - is a necessity for almost every business these days - and that is dominated by two big business entities - in fact, only big business can enter this industry given the immense start up costs (even retooling the factories to change to new cpu production can cost hundreds of millions of dollars), and yet the price to performance ratio has dropped massively.

If your meme had any validity, we'd still be paying prices that were at least comparable to 1986 prices, if not higher.

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Re: Congress wants you to pay for farmers' high-speed internet
« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2014, 07:29:15 PM »
It's not exactly a meme - I have lived it.

Your analogy is inapt. You can get by with a 10 year old computer. It works slower, but how fast do you actually need it to be? Ten year old food, no so much.

Now if we wander off into the ethanol subsidies or soil banking, you get my wholehearted agreement. But when you are talking about one of the four basic necessities of life, it's wise to pay the producer of it a fair price.

Should the taxpayer subsidize farmers? No, because it simply should not be needed. They work like hell to raise stuff to keep you alive. Yet many years they lose money on the crop, because people simply will not pay what it is actually worth. It's why more and more farms are quietly shutting their gates and sticking to local and subsistence level stuff. Minimal transport costs, they set their own prices and eat well.

You are stuck in the city. A bit of your tax money going to the farmers? Or starve, because the people around you want something that cost a buck fifty to raise for 99 cents. There is only one rational choice.
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Re: Congress wants you to pay for farmers' high-speed internet
« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2014, 08:44:52 PM »
Urban/suburban folks subsidize rural folks for telephones, television, roads, postal services, not to mention crops when grown, and when not grown.

Why not internet, too?

They will threaten an explosion of food prices, if the subsidies were removed. Wow, we've had just such an explosion.



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