During a virtual panel on broadband expansion organized by Food Tank and the Refresh Working Group, experts argue that internet connectivity is crucial to building more resilient communities and food systems.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, approximately one-quarter of the rural population in the United States lacks fixed broadband service at threshold speeds. And in tribal areas, this is true for nearly one-third of residents.

The panelists say that the lack of broadband can impact farmers' ability to expand into new markets, transition to more sustainable practices, and connect with other farmers about best practices.

Miller explains that a number of factors have led to this situation. In some areas, landscapes can make the installation of internet service a challenge. But in other areas, population density comes into play.

“Where it’s not dense enough, companies aren’t interested in providing services because there’s no money to be made,” Miller tells Food Tank.

This, Olson argues, is why broadband “should be a public utility, just like water and electricity.”

Mulvihill and Miller say that such a change would benefit not just farmers, but the food system as a whole.

At Farm Generations Coop, Mulvihill works to create technological, scale-appropriate solutions for farms. She says that stronger connectivity could help farmers reach more customers and, in turn, help consumers diversify their diets.

Miller also believes the broadband expansion will help to create greater transparency in the food system. With a better flow of information, more farmers could share what they’re doing as well as best practices. All of this can bring equity into the food system.

Read the full article about bringing internet to farms by Elena Seeley at Food Tank.