Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
From Pigs to Power, North Carolina Ag Needs Broadband Not Barriers
When rural broadband advocates talk about the connectivity needs of farmers, they often discuss real-time crop prices, monitoring the status of fields, or the ability to submit data-intensive reports. An innovator in North Carolina has a different take on why fast, affordable, reliable connectivity is important to his ag-related business and it involves hog waste. He explains how North Carolina’s municipal networks and cooperatives need to be able to operate without restriction if the state’s agribusiness is to advance.
Methane is Power, but Broadband is a Must
In a recent opinion piece by Mark Maloney, the CEO and founder of OptimaBio writes that his company is developing a method for capturing methane from hog waste and transforming the biogas into electricity. According to Maloney, the pilot program has the potential to expand in order to provide affordable energy while also reducing harm to the environment.
A key element that OptimaBio requires, however, is reliable and fast connectivity, which isn't readily available in many rural North Carolina communities yet:
The equipment that allows this conversion produces large amounts of data to assist us in understanding operations and avoid downtime.
That data is of no value if we cannot transmit it over a reliable communications network.
Today, without reliable broadband, we use radio signals to get the job done. It’s not ideal.
He describes how weather and trees can interrupt radio signals that must be in line of sight of each other, and how the company must purchase expensive equipment in order to use radio signals. At this stage, there is no other alternative in the rural areas where they operate.
A Chronic Problem
Maloney writes that his company is one of many in the agriculture industry that struggles due to poor rural connectivity in North Carolina. In order to allow agribusiness to pursue innovations that can solve problems and find improvements, the state needs to remove onerous hurdles.
As our state policymakers and legislators examine the issues of broadband access, they need to bring all available options and partners to the table – including electric co-ops and local governments. It is imperative that we remove all hurdles that hinder local governments and electric co-ops from working with private internet providers to create the best solution for the end-users.
Small Steps Move North Carolina Forward
This spring, Governor Roy Cooper signed S 310 into law, which allows electric cooperatives expand easements to apply to fiber optic infrastructure. As the need for broadband in the agribusiness sector and other mostly rural industries intensifies, lawmakers will face more pressure to remove other restrictions hindering deployment from local government and co-ops. Large, national Internet access companies have repeatedly indicated that they won’t expand fiber in rural North Carolina without substantial subsidies. Removing restrictions that discourage cooperatives and municipalities from investing in broadband infrastructure will bring more resources forward to attack lack of rural broadband access.
As Maloney writes:
It’s nearly 2020. Our farms and agribusiness industry are adopting modern, data-intensive technology that is transforming rural North Carolina. We can no longer wait for our rural communication networks to catch up.
Wave of Wireless Connectivity Crests in Enfield, North Carolina
Historically, Enfield was known for its tobacco and peanuts. Today, there’s a new wave cresting in this small rural community in eastern North Carolina.
Election Day 2022: Broadband on the Ballot
Rescue Plan Dollars Resuscitate an Open Access Fiber Network Buildout in Erie County, New York
Plans for an open access fiber backbone in Erie County, New York (pop. 951,000) are being readjusted after having been stymied by the pandemic. The county will use Rescue Plan funding to cover the cost of building the backbone, which will be owned by the county and operated by ErieNet, a nonprofit local development corporation.
Rural Southeast Alaskan Tribes Leverage Spectrum for a Pilot Connecting Hard-to-Reach Communities
The Tlingit and Haida Tribes will leverage $15 million in Rescue Plan funding to bring LTE-based 100 Mbps symmetrical wireless connectivity to 10,000 unserved residents in and around the city of Wrangell, located on Wrangell Island
Lancaster County, Nebraska Looking to Build Conduit Network to Rural Areas
About ten years ago, the city of Lincoln, Nebraska (pop. 285,000) began construction on a publicly owned conduit system it would eventually lease to Internet Service Provider (ISP) ALLO Communications to enable better Internet service options to residents.
Tribal Broadband Bootcamps Bring Broadband Solutions to Indian Country
An effort to foster digital sovereignty and support tribal citizens to build and operate their own broadband networks in Indian Country is gaining momentum. Responding to the challenges of COVID and the opportunities created by the federal attention and investment into tribal broadband, our own Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Community Broadband Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, prominent Tribal broadband advocate and 20-year veteran behind the Tribal Digital Village, Matt Rantanen, along with a loose coalition of public interest tech people have organized a series of trainings to help tribes tackle building and running networks for themselves.