Useful, But Underutilized Technology

amanda huber

Amanda Huber, Editor

I feel extremely blessed to be the editor of Peanut Grower and to have been able to do this working remotely from my home all these years. This has only been accomplished because of my access to reliable Internet.

For years, I have used Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) to get a high-speed bandwidth connection, which goes over the phone line in frequencies that the telephone doesn’t use. It still works great.

Unfortunately, DSL is now considered old technology, and AT&T stopped installing it a couple years ago. I’ve now heard through people “in the know” that they will stop supporting DSL in the next few years.

This scares the daylights out of me because I don’t think they have a viable alternative for what I need. Daily I see people within my county asking about decent, workable Internet — not even great Internet — just anything that will work.

Recently, Wes Porter, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension precision agriculture and irrigation specialist, and Glen Rains, UGA agricultural engineer, along with a group of stakeholders from the Georgia Peanut Commission, Georgia Cotton Commission, Georgia Pecan Commission and the Flint River Water District, and Reps. Buddy Carter (R-Ga) and Austin Scott (R-Ga) sat down with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Brendan Carr.

They were able to tell him about all the technological advancements farmers have at their fingertips but are not able to use because of the lack of broadband Internet access for many.

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“We’re creating all sorts of useful data on machines in the field but if we don’t have a reliable way to get it off the machines, processed and back into the farmers’ hands, it’s not going to be utilized,” Porter said.

Porter and Rains made it plain that tools such as auto-steer technology, variable-rate irrigation, in-field controllers, smartphone apps, soil moisture sensors and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are all critical precision agriculture tools they use in their research. While these technologies help UGA scientists be more efficient in the field, many of the state’s producers are restricted by the lack of broadband access or poor-quality broadband service.

“We’re sitting on the cusp of all of this new and innovative technology. Most of our farmers have this technology, but it’s underutilized for that one reason,” Porter said.

For your sake and mine, I hope that Commissioner Carr heard Porter, Rains, the Congressmen and others in their earnest plea for real help with rural broadband.