October 18, 2017
Last week, this blog reported that Internet download speeds are getting faster around the country and that more households are online and have choices when it comes to where they get broadband. In other words: the digital divide is narrowing and competition is growing in all areas of the country.
That’s also the conclusion the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reached in its latest “Farm Computer Usage and Ownership” survey. (This survey is taken every two years.) As Agriculture.com explains, “[F]armers are nearly as likely as their city neighbors to have Internet access.” Specifically, 71 percent of farmers told the USDA that they have Internet access, up from 60 percent just eight years ago. The 71 percent figure is very close to the average number of broadband subscribers in urban areas. (To be clear: far more Americans have access to the Internet, they just choose not to subscribe.)
Region and income do affect whether or not the nation’s two million farmers have access to the Internet. Farms in the western part of the United States are the most likely to be online while those in the southern part are the least likely. Wyoming has the most wired farmers, followed by New Jersey and Oregon. More than eight in ten arms with more than a quarter million dollars in sales have Internet access while only about 65 percent of those with sales less than $250,000 do.
More farmers are using computers and the Internet to run their businesses as well. According to the survey, computer usage for farm business is at 47 percent nationally. That figure increased four percentage points in the last two years. These farmers are using their computers to make purchases over the Internet and to market themselves and their products. The survey also found 39 percent of farmers use a tablet or smartphone for farm business.
With additional private investment in broadband, these figures will certainly grow over the next two years in advance of the USDA’s 2019 survey.
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