skip to main content
skip to newscasts

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Public News Service Logo
facebook instagram linkedin reddit youtube twitter
view newscast page
play newscast audioPlay

Day two of David Pecker testimony wraps in NY Trump trial; Supreme Court hears arguments on Idaho's near-total abortion ban; ND sees a flurry of campaigning among Native candidates; and NH lags behind other states in restricting firearms at polling sites.

view newscast page
play newscast audioPlay

The Senate moves forward with a foreign aid package. A North Carolina judge overturns an aged law penalizing released felons. And child protection groups call a Texas immigration policy traumatic for kids.

view newscast page
play newscast audioPlay

Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

New tool gauges economic effects of expanded broadband in rural IL

play audio
Play

Tuesday, February 6, 2024   

By Will Wright for The Daily Yonder.
Broadcast version by Mark Richardson for Illinois News Connection reporting for The Daily Yonder-Public News Service Collaboration


As the federal government distributes $42.5 billion to expand broadband internet access across America and its territories, some local leaders are asking themselves: How much economic impact could faster internet create?

The true dollar figure would be spread across the economy, from agriculture and small businesses to harder-to-track impacts like an increased willingness for families to relocate to rural areas.

But a report by the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society estimates that, across 15 agricultural counties in Illinois, faster internet speeds could boost production of corn and soybeans by over $100 million annually. 

The report argues that faster internet will allow farmers to more precisely plant, fertilize and harvest crops — a method called “precision agriculture.” In areas with slow internet speeds, the ability to utilize precision agriculture methods are more limited, the report says. 

A tool included in the report provides estimates of increased corn and soybean revenue in each of the 15 counties.

In Bond County, Illinois, the model estimates the county could have boosted corn and soybean production by a combined $4.8 million in 2021 if they had expanded broadband internet access. 

The model relies on a paper that compares crop production data and internet speeds from 2007, 2012 and 2017, to see if better internet leads to increased farm output. The paper finds a substantial benefit to faster internet.

Relying on the projected production increases described in that paper, the Benton model suggests a possibility of millions of dollars a year in increased crop yields.

A researcher who is not affiliated with the study, Grant Gardner, an agriculture economist at the University of Kentucky, said he was skeptical of the hard-dollar projections. He said the study on which the tool is based does not account for other factors that could affect changes in yield, such as equipment improvements.

The designer of the tool, geography Professor John Kostelnick at Illinois State University, said that the model has limitations but that it can help rural leaders evaluate the broader economic gains that come with broadband expansion. Having a rational basis for including gains from agriculture could help rural communities compete for funding that will flow to states from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“A lot of times rural areas don’t have high priority because they don’t have the population threshold,” Kostelnick said. “It’s easy to say, well, there’s just not a lot of people living there.” 

Estimating the economic gains that broadband access would bring to farmers could give some rural communities an edge in competing for funding, he said.

Bryan Stevens, a corn and soybean farmer and board president of the Hancock County Farm Bureau, who participated in the Broadband Breakthrough program, said he sees increased broadband access as a serious factor for farmers’ pocketbooks. 

“I can see how they can come up with these numbers based on efficiency,” Stevens said. “The less time I waste in the spring or in the fall … the better off I am.”

Local leaders also told the Daily Yonder access to telehealth and remote schooling also play into rural communities’ need for better internet. 

Peggy Braffet, who operates a pick-your-own orchard with her husband in Carlock, Illinois, said the internet running to her property isn’t fast enough to allow clients to pay with credit cards. 

As cash becomes less popular and more people arrive without it, Braffet said she’s worried about the amount of money she could miss out on. Increased revenue to businesses like the Braffet Berry Farm & Orchard aren’t included in the agricultural tool from the Benton Institute but nonetheless would add to the county’s increased economic output. 

The Benton Institute’s Broadband Breakthrough program, which pulled together local leaders hoping to access federal broadband expansion dollars, also provided communities with a tool to find points of higher elevation in their home counties. Those high points can be identified as important locations when making a plan of how, and where, to lay new internet connections. 

In flat regions, high points like grain elevators, water towers, and silos can be important nodes for various forms of wireless broadband technology.

Kostelnick said the economic estimate tool would likely need to be adjusted for other crops in areas less dominated by corn and soybeans. But, he said, the elevation tool should work in “just about any place.” 


Will Wright wrote this article for The Daily Yonder.

Disclosure: The Daily Yonder contributes to our fund for reporting. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


get more stories like this via email
more stories
Several Mississippi correctional facilities offer both short-term (12 weeks) and long-term (six months) alcohol and drug programs with individual and group counseling for treating alcohol and drug addictions. (Wesley JvR/peopleimages.com)

Social Issues

play sound

Mississippi prisons often lack resources to treat people who are incarcerated with substance-use disorders adequately but a nonprofit organization is …


Social Issues

play sound

April is Second Chance Month and many Nebraskans are celebrating passage of a bipartisan voting rights restoration bill and its focus on second chance…

Health and Wellness

play sound

New Mexico saw record enrollment numbers for the Affordable Care Act this year and is now setting its sights on lowering out-of-pocket costs - those n…


Migrants are put on buses from Texas to other states, often without knowing where they are going. (afishman64/Adobe Stock)

Social Issues

play sound

The future of Senate Bill 4 is still tangled in court challenges. It's the Texas law that would allow police to arrest people for illegally crossing …

Social Issues

play sound

Residents in a rural North Carolina town grappling with economic challenges are getting a pathway to homeownership. In Enfield, the average annual …

Social Issues

play sound

A new poll finds a near 20-year low in the number of voters who say they have a high interest in the 2024 election, with a majority saying they hold …

Social Issues

play sound

A case before the U.S. Supreme Court could have implications for the country's growing labor movement. Justices will hear oral arguments in Starbucks …

 

Phone: 303.448.9105 Toll Free: 888.891.9416 Fax: 208.247.1830 Your trusted member- and audience-supported news source since 1996 Copyright 2021