Since 1913, the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association has been working daily to assist and represent all cattle producers throughout the state. We work hard to protect our communities and assure that our voice is heard in all areas affecting the industry.
Internet access is one of those areas, which is why OCA is proud to have joined a new, national coalition called Connect Americans Now, which is dedicated to closing the digital divide.
The internet has become as important a tool for a rancher as a horse or rope. Ranchers need real-time market information when making business decisions, ranging from the price of grain to the price of cattle, to buying necessary equipment and accessing key government statistics. The Internet provides the quickest and most efficient means for obtaining this information.
This, of course, depends on access to broadband technologies. In the rural parts of our state where many of our ranches are located, high speed internet options are limited or nonexistent, depriving ranchers of important, internet-based technologies. Our members also care deeply about their communities and rural patches of our state that are without high speed internet miss out on critical educational tools, global information, economic opportunities and healthcare services.
If this trend continues — with some communities developing broadband access at a rapid pace, and others continuing to operate without such access — then the rural divide will continue to grow, leaving many residents and businesses at a disadvantage, in many aspects of commercial and societal life.
Connect Americans Now has an innovative way to bridge the digital divide. The technology exists to transmit broadband through the TV white space spectrum, using the same type of technology that allowed the old rabbit ear antennas to pick up far off TV signals, but now we can utilize an unused portion of that telecommunications spectrum to serve broadband to rural communities.
This TV white space spectrum already exists and reaches 80 percent of the underserved rural population in this country. Let’s use it for broadband.
Not only is this technology maturing and available for use, it’s also affordable. We do not need to build new infrastructure, we just have to harness a portion of the spectrum that already touches rural communities. A study conducted by Microsoft estimates that using TV white space to deliver broadband Internet in rural areas would be 80 percent cheaper than fiber optic cable, and 50 percent cheaper than LTE wireless technology.
The Federal Communications Commission and our leaders in the federal government should support the development and deployment of this technology. The sooner our members can take advantage of affordable broadband access, the sooner their operations, their families and their communities can begin to benefit.
Specifically, the FCC should be encouraged to ensure that three channels below 700 MHz are available for wireless use on an unlicensed basis in every market in the country. This is what it will take for TV white space technology to succeed.
Agriculture is the lifeblood of numerous small towns and communities across Oregon and across this country. As such, it is critical that our elected officials support policies that promote healthy, productive agricultural businesses and rural communities as a whole, as well as innovative business plans to help achieve success.
America’s ranchers know firsthand how valuable communications is in the agricultural world. Being online has supercharged, for example, the sale barns — live auctions in which cattle and other livestock are sold to the highest bidder — that we rely on for our economic survival. Getting sale barns online has allowed us to expand our reach around the world. And a slower, unreliable, and immobile broadband only holds us back.
TV white space technology represents a way for our members to stay successful via increased productivity, they just need the means to access that technology. Please join OCA in supporting the development of TV whitespace as a broadband vehicle.
Jerome Rosa is president of the Oregon Cattlmen’s Association.