FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today announced the formation of a task force focused on precision agriculture.
The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (HR 2), better known as the farm bill, which was signed into law last December, directed the FCC to establish the task force and work with the Department of Agriculture to increase broadband deployment in areas where it can support precision agriculture (TR Daily, Dec. 20, 2018).
The Task Force for Reviewing the Connectivity and Technology Needs of Precision Agriculture in the United States will work with the USDA “to develop policy recommendations to promote the rapid, expanded deployment of broadband Internet access service on unserved agricultural land,” according to an FCC news release.
“As I’ve traveled the country, I’ve seen the amazing efficiencies, innovations, and improvements that high-speed Internet brings to today’s farms and ranches,” said Chairman Pai. “This is the present and the future of American agriculture, and we must do whatever we can to support these producers and enhance precision agriculture.”
“In consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary), or a designee of the Secretary, and in collaboration with public and private stakeholders in the agriculture and technology fields,” a public notice released today said, the task force will (1) “identify and measure current gaps in the availability of broadband Internet access service on agricultural land;” (2) “develop policy recommendations to promote the rapid, expanded deployment of broadband Internet access service on unserved agricultural land, with a goal of achieving reliable capabilities on 95 percent of agricultural land in the United States by 2025;” (3) “promote effective policy and regulatory solutions that encourage the adoption of broadband Internet access service on farms and ranches and promote precision agriculture;” (4) “recommend specific new rules or amendments to existing rules of the Commission that the Commission should issue to achieve the goals and purposes of the policy recommendations described in the second bullet in this list;” (5) “recommend specific steps that the Commission should take to obtain reliable and standardized data measurements of the availability of broadband Internet access service as may be necessary to target funding support, from future programs of the Commission dedicated to the deployment of broadband Internet access service, to unserved agricultural land in need of broadband Internet access service;” and (6) “recommend specific steps that the Commission should consider to ensure that the expertise of the Secretary and available farm data are reflected in future programs of the Commission dedicated to the infrastructure deployment of broadband Internet access service and to direct available funding to unserved agricultural land where needed.”
The public notice said that “not later than one (1) year after the date on which the Commission officially establishes the Task Force, and annually thereafter, the Task Force will submit to the Chairman of the Commission a report, which shall be made public” detailing (1) “the status of fixed and mobile broadband Internet access service coverage of agricultural land;” (2) “the projected future connectivity needs of agricultural operations, farmers, and ranchers;” and (3) “the steps being taken to accurately measure the availability of broadband Internet access service on agricultural land and the limitations of current, as of the date of the report, measurement processes.”
The task force is being chartered for two years under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).
The FCC wants nominations for participation on the 15-member task force, including representatives of agricultural producers, tribes, Internet service providers, the electric cooperative and satellites industries, precision agriculture equipment manufacturers, state and local governments, and those with expertise in broadband network data collection, geospatial analysis, and coverage mapping. Nominations are due July 17. —Paul Kirby, [email protected]
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