Farmer-owned cooperative Land O’Lakes is spearheading a new coalition of businesses, associations and other organizations that will “advocate for public and private sector investment” to bring high-speed broadband to rural areas and contribute “their own resources to facilitate remote education, health and mental health services, job opportunities and more.”
The group, known as American Connection Project Broadband Coalition (ACPBC), currently has 49 members and is seeking more. Current members include major businesses such as Hershey, Nestle, Cargill, Bayer U.S. and Microsoft; associations such as NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the National Farmers Union and the National Grain and Feed Association; and other entities.
One of the first actions of the new group was to send a letter to President Trump and congressional leaders urging them to “enact groundbreaking broadband connectivity legislation that includes the necessary resources to close the digital divide in this country.” The letter stops short of endorsing specific broadband legislation, but a slew of such legislation has been introduced in the House and the Senate.
American Connection Project Broadband Coalition
Although Land O’Lakes is best known as a butter supplier, the company has branched into precision agriculture, which will need highly ubiquitous broadband connectivity. As a farmer-owned cooperative, the company also is closely entwined with rural communities.
When the COVID-19 pandemic took root, Land O’Lakes made Wi-Fi connectivity at company locations available to people lacking high-speed broadband who could sit in their cars and connect. In addition, the company reached out to other companies to encourage them to do the same and to join in signing a letter to state governors urging them to also make more Wi-Fi hotspot locations available during the pandemic.
The letter that the ACPBC sent to President Trump and congressional leaders this week cites several estimates of the cost of making broadband available nationwide – ranging from an $80 billion 2017 estimate from the FCC to a $130-$150 billion Deloitte estimate from 2019 (referenced in a USDA report). The letter also notes, however, that the USDA estimated last year that precision agriculture could have an $18 billion positive annual impact.
Today’s press release about the Land O’Lakes broadband coalition notes that some coalition members have donated funds and equipment aimed at helping to close the digital divide and that one of the group’s activities will be to “identify new ways to work together to maximize the reach of these actions and fill needs that have not previously been met.”