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Connectivity for Precision Ag May Require New Federal Approaches

Randy Sukow / Mar 16, 2021

The FCC’s Precision Agriculture Connectivity Task Force last week approved a long list of preliminary recommendations to the Commission suggesting policy changes to promote broadband connectivity to unserved agricultural lands. The recommendations developed by the task force’s Accelerating Broadband Deployment on Unserved Agricultural Lands Working Group call for the FCC and other agencies to rethink spectrum auctions and other policies that set population coverage as a goal over geography. Precision ag requires connectivity to every acre of every farm and ranch.

“Now all these tractors and combines are effectively mini-data centers,” said Commissioner Brendan Carr at the opening of the meeting. “When you look at all of the high-res imagery technology we have and other ways we have of collecting data, there is about 18 [gigabytes] of data that you could pull off of an individual plant. That means the average cornfield holds over 28 times as much data as the Library of Congress.”

The technology to collect and analyze that data exists. Connectivity to agricultural lands, however, often does not exist.