At the same time as the government is making unprecedented broadband funding available, it is also considering setting more ambitious broadband targets. An ambitious new set of goals came this week from the FCC’s Precision Agriculture Task Force which, among other things, recommends that construction requirements such as those formulated in spectrum auctions be based on geographic areas covered that include cropland or ranch land rather than populations.
Also among the recommendations of the working group: increase incentives and subsidies to stimulate deployment; increasing the minimum fixed and mobile broadband speed definitions to 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps download; expansion of the middle mile infrastructure; and clarifying that advanced computing infrastructure and private 5G wireless systems are eligible expenses for federal broadband programs.
FCC Precision Agriculture Task Force
The FCC Precision Agriculture Working Group was formed in 2019 to work with the USDA to study connectivity needs to support the technology and make recommendations on how to meet those needs. . The new 129-page task force report summarizes the task force’s research and recommendations.
“[T]The number of people living in the United States who need to be fed is growing exponentially, and food production must match that need to ensure food security in the United States, ”the report notes. “In addition, the need for agricultural products to meet other needs, such as fuel, continues to grow. . . The farming community must become more productive and efficient to meet the increased demand in the United States for food and other resources. “
According to the researchers, the farming community needs both broadband and narrowband connectivity, including low-speed broadband coverage and targeted high-speed and high-speed coverage. This requirement prompted the report’s recommendation that the FCC should “identify, implement and / or strengthen policies to facilitate the use of low, medium and high band spectrum for precision agriculture applications.”
The specific recommendations of the working group regarding connectivity to support precision agriculture:
- The farm, fields and pastures must have 4G / 5G coverage. Service providers should be interconnected with private 5G wireless systems on farms and ranches for seamless interoperability and data flow.
- An edge cloud infrastructure must be created to bring the cloud to farms and ranches to deliver on the promise of automation. Peripheral infrastructure must be located on farms and ranches and be connected to broadband.
- Private 5G wireless systems must be implemented in every farm and ranch to collect massive amounts of data from sensors, machines and drones. These systems will provide services to the farm, service yards, barns, stockyards and outhouses.
- State-of-the-art computing, private 5G systems, and precision farming applications should be included as critical infrastructure in all rural broadband incentive programs from the FCC, USDA, and the United States. other federal agencies, as well as state and county programs.
“In itself, broadband is a halfway bridge,” the report says. “A complete infrastructure and software solution are required for the adoption and achievement of precision agriculture. “