Grain Bins


Making broadband accessible in South Dakota

Posted on September 01, 2021
Rural Broadband v1

Broadband. If you’re lucky, it’s how you have access to this content, as well as a wealth of knowledge that can be found across the internet on nearly every subject imaginable. However, when it comes to rural and remote communities across our state, many are not so lucky with this service.

Despite many rural farm and ranch communities across the state lacking connectivity, new initiatives are being adopted in the state and across the country to help more people find their place in cyberspace.

As we enter into September, youngsters are heading back to class, which will certainly mean virtual homework. Not to mention, with harvest just around the corner, it’s time to make sure all of your precision agriculture equipment is up to speed. Now more than ever, access to broadband is so crucial to our state.

Legislative Action:

A need is there, but who will answer the call? At both the state and national levels, our political leaders are taking notice of what’s lacking with the necessary service. Plans are in the works to make investments in helping upgrade connectivity to the communities that need it most.

Gov. Noem signed a piece of legislation in March that carves $75 million out of the state budget and $25 million from CARES Act funds to invest in creating a connection for all homes and businesses in the state.

Denny Law, Chief Executive Officer at Golden West Telecommunications Cooperative based out of Wall, SD is excited about the funds and what they mean for our state.

“In general, this investment allows broadband providers to continue extending services to areas in the state that are predominantly rural or remote to further deploy network capacity in areas that may not have an economic justification to support them. With the assistance of the Gov.’s office, as well as other programs available for broadband deployment, it basically allows more broadband to be in more areas.”

Laying the groundwork:

With federal and state support, many telecommunications companies are ready to hit the ground running to bring connectivity to more rural customers. However, there are still some challenges that lay ahead in order to implement broadband for all.

According to Law, there are four “abilities” that need to be met for broadband providers, as well as rural customers to benefit from these services:

1. Availability

A network needs to be established for customers to be able to access the services provided by a network.

2. Capability

If a network is available, it also needs to be capable of handling the load of customers and the demand they place on the system.

3. Affordability

Can customers afford the network? This may vary depending on different locations and factors.

4. Sustainability

The work isn’t over once the network is completed. Can the network hold up to use and service needs today, tomorrow and multiple years into the future?

Over the past several years, measurable progress has been made in all these areas, especially in the rural areas of the state.

“We continue to make progress, but are we done yet in terms of industry in South Dakota and getting broadband to every corner of every county in the state? No,” said Law. “But with every passing year, locally-based telecommunications providers in South Dakota build out large swaths of rural areas in the state. We continue to make progress and I think that will continue into the next few years ahead in terms of build-out and expansion of broadband services.”

He said that Gov. Noem’s program for the state will act as a turbo boost to help kick off more programs than would have been possible before. It will take several years to get all of the networks up and running at optimum capacity, but this helps get everything moving in the right direction.

“For anyone who thinks strong data connections aren’t important in rural environments, I would beg to differ. Not only is it important, but it’s also even more important than it is for someone like me who lives in town.”

Precision Ag for all:

While many across the state think of broadband access as an educational and communication issue to bridge the digital divide, we at South Dakota Corn see it as so much more. Technology changes at a rapid pace and this too affects our farmers and farming technology, especially when it comes to precision agriculture practices.

“There is a shift happening today in where farming decision-making occurs,” said Nick Langerock, Director of Strategic Marketing at Raven Industries.

“With connectivity, we are able to bring all the performance, environment, and historical data back to a centralized location, either on or offboard of the machine, to better formulate an operational plan. To take it a step further, more of these decisions are being done in real-time with pre-defined parameters of the grower. There is a greater need for connectivity as the industry advances from precision ag technology to driverless ag technology, and autonomous equipment like Raven’s OMNi suite of technology becomes more prevalent. When machines in the field no longer have an individual in the cab, the decisions are now dependent on remote connectivity with that machine. This continues to give the grower control over farming practices, but through real-time connectivity, operations become more efficient and sustainable to the environment.”

In South Dakota, precision agriculture is too more than just a way of farming, it’s a program for the future. South Dakota State University is leading the way, offering both undergraduate majors and minors at the school. Combining engineering, computer technology, and farming practices, this program is creating new opportunities in the ag industry which need broadband access to solve complex agricultural challenges.

“Another positive impact of improving rural broadband is to benefit the continuous development of ag technology,” said Langerock. “Finding individuals with experience in agriculture and who have software design expertise is critical, and it’s becoming harder to recruit to the city to work. Recruitment of top-tier talent that could work remotely in farming communities is partially limited by the availability of high-speed broadband connectivity.”

SDCGA is a Champion for Change

Each year SDCGA advocates for our state’s farmers and ranchers with their best interests in mind. That’s why this year during legislative session one of the organization’s top priorities was ensuring funding was secured to help even more rural areas of the state were able to gain access to this essential utility.

To learn more about what is in store for the state, check out Gov. Noem’s plans and priorities for connecting South Dakota to broadband.

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