Gary Smith has worked at the grain elevator at Okaw Farmer’s Co-op in Lovington, Illinois, for 40 years. On his desk sit two computer screens, where he tracks corn and soybean prices online at the Chicago Board of Trade. As he explained, trade moves fast: “Just bam bam bam, and within a few seconds it could change a nickel or a dime against your favor.”A slow internet connection could mean a loss of hundreds of dollars for a farmer trying to sell his crop. Smith said their internet connection used to be so slow, they’d often just pick up the phone to report the grades and weights of grain they were buying. “Well, you know how a telephone conversation can go,” he said while watching the prices change on the screen. “Well that was just a half-cent now we would have lost on soybeans just by this little conversation right here.”That changed when they got high-speed internet over fiber optic cables a year ago.“Speed is what we’re after, and fiber optic is a lot better,” he said.But fiber or many other high-speed internet options are expensive to bring to rural towns like Lovington, with a population of about 1,100.
In 2017, the shares of State residents receiving SNAP benefits ranged from 22.1 percent in New Mexico to 5.7 percent in Wyoming. Among seven USDA-defined regions, the Southeast region had the highest average share of residents receiving SNAP benefits at 15.1 percent and the Mountain Plains region had the lowest at 9.6 percent.
Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is partnering with rural communities in 22 states to support opportunities for opioid prevention, treatment and recovery. “With its impact on workforce, quality of life and the economic vitality of rural communities from Maine to California, the opioid epidemic is more than just a matter of public health – it is an issue of rural prosperity,” Hazlett said. “Under the leadership of President Trump, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities in planning and building local responses to this monumental challenge.”USDA is investing $10.7 million in 85 projects in 22 states through the Community Facilities program.
Public Knowledge joined 17 other organizations to form the Broadband Connects America coalition. The Coalition is comprised of a wide range of consumer, rural, and social justice organizations committed to closing the digital divide. Coinciding with today’s launch, Broadband Connects America released the Principles to Connect Rural America -- five principles to serve as a foundation for policymakers and advocates to promote policies that work to bring broadband to millions of rural Americans. Over 30 percent of rural Americans do not have access to broadband at home -- a staggering amount when compared to the four percent of urban Americans who can’t get access. The rural digital divide is even more troubling for rural Americans of color; a recent study by Free Press shows that 27 percent of people of color who live in rural America do not have access to the internet at home. And even when rural Americans do have access to broadband connections, the service is often unreliable.Restoring net neutrality is essential to closing the rural digital divide.Deployment should be focused on achieving tangible universal service to all rural Americans rather than allocated based on profit per population density.Funding should be simple and allocated directly to infrastructure needs, not directly to last-mile carriers.Closing the rural digital divide will require a combination approach that reflects the complexity of the challenges of deploying broadband to rural America.
If a city puts its fiber cables underground, it has to close down traffic, pay the cost of digging equipment and endure the risk of unexpected obstacles like a hidden sheet of rock. If it decides to string up the fiber along utility poles, it has a lot of legal maneuvering, negotiations and paperwork ahead of it to secure permission — before it signs on to pay a leasing fee that never goes away. In Stillwater, Okla., and Fauquier County, Va., people are trying a third option. They are, for lack of a better term, gluing it to the ground.“When you think of broadband, the fiber-optic cables are usually up in the air or they’re buried underground,” said Meagan Kascsak, communications coordinator for the city of Stillwater. “This is kind of in between, it’s on a hard surface like a street or a parking lot in this case.”
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has announced a plan to bring broadband Internet to every residence and business throughout his state. The state will coordinate with Connect Michigan, a subsidiary of the nonprofit Connected Nation, to implement the plan to connect nearly 40,000 households that don't have high-speed Internet.The plan calls for Internet at a speed of 1 gigabit per second to all homes and businesses by 2026."As technology continues to rapidly change and evolve, having access to fast, reliable internet is now a necessity for everyday life," Snyder said in a statement. "There are many regions of Michigan where internet is inaccessible or ineffective, and this plan works to make broadband internet available to Michigan residents in every corner of the state."
The American landscape of broadband in rural areas is spotty at best. It is a picture covered with splotches of color. Some maps are covered with red indicating there is no service; and other maps are covered in blue where access can be found. In states like North and South Dakota, officials have done their best to give their populace fiber to the home.Then there are areas where the state government has worked hard to provide grants and a flexible network of private and local not-for-profit organizations to build out coverage slowly. An excellent example of this would be Minnesota where 117 providers have come together to build infrastructure in the name of economic development.Then there is the vibrant area of broadband build out that is headed by rural electric cooperatives. Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 to bring electricity to rural areas when privately owned companies were not building out to farms and ranches. The act allowed electricity to rural areas through cooperatives, many of which still exist today. These member-owned co-ops purchased power on a wholesale basis and electricity was distributed on a network of their building. Many government experts see this model as a potential saving grace for Internet in rural areas.But there are still areas that have nothing to tether them to the modern world at all. These areas are not just rural, but geographically challenging to traverse and connect. Oregon is one of these states. Geographically the eastern part of the state is cut off from the coast by the Cascade Mountains."These are big challenges that call for another rural electrification administration approach. That is the scale of the problem," he said. "The reason we had initial rural electrification was because the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Administration, particularly a guy named Harold Ickes, who realized that the private sector would not bring good infrastructure to rural America, so they created all these co-ops."Ironically those rural electric cooperatives are building fiber networks in rural areas frequently without government help today. "If we wanted to improve rural access quickly we would focus on the electric and telephone co-ops in rural areas," he said. "Instead, the federal government is giving billions of dollars to AT&T and CenturyLink."
Well-meaning animal lovers who import rescue dogs from abroad are risking the health of millions of UK pets, vets are warning. The British Veterinary Association is urging prospective owners to safeguard the country’s dog population by rehoming dogs from within the UK instead. Nine out of ten vets are “concerned” by the growing numbers of rescue dogs from abroad, according to figures from the BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary profession survey. Three quarters of the country’s pet specialists claim the numbers have increased over the last year, it reveals.
An entire summer’s worth of rain has fallen across a broad swath of the Midwest in recent days. The resulting record floods have wrecked homes and altered the paths of rivers, in one case destroying a waterfall in Minnesota. The worst-affected region, southwest Wisconsin, has received more than 20 inches of rain in 15 days– more than it usually gets in six months.Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin declared a statewide emergency last week, mobilizing the Wisconsin National Guard to assist flood victims if necessary. The Kickapoo River in southwest Wisconsin rose to record levels — as high as six feet above the previous high water mark — producing damage that local emergency management officials described as “breathtaking.”In the tiny Wisconsin town of Gays Mills, this is the third catastrophic flood in 10 years. After floods a decade ago, about a quarter of the residents left, and the town was partially rebuilt on higher ground. But this time around is even worse — with almost every home in the town damaged.Is there a connection to climate change? Well, a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor, and the region’s main moisture source — the Gulf of Mexico — has reached record-warm levels in recent years, helping to spur an increase in precipitation intensity. Since the 1950s, the amount of rain falling in the heaviest storms has increased by 37 percent in the Midwest.But there’s more to it than that. Decades of development have also paved over land that used to soak up rainwater. Earlier this year, Wisconsin took controversial steps to loosen restrictions on lakeside development.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been running checkpoints in New Hampshire more frequently under the Trump administration, setting up on Interstate 93 near the small towns of Woodstock and Lincoln. The stated goal of these stops is enforcing immigration law, and to that end, they have been fairly successful. Agents have arrested more than 50 people over the past two years who they determined to be in the country illegally. But those in support of the stops are often quick to turn attention to a topic other than immigration: drugs and the state’s opioid crisis.Here in New Hampshire, despite the political divide on immigration issues, checkpoints are broadly accepted by at least one measure. Roughly 70 percent of residents said they supported the stops as a check on immigration, and to investigate potential drug smuggling, in a survey conducted last year by researchers at the University of New Hampshire.