The faster the better

Texas has its share of large cities, yet it still remains the land of wide-open spaces. In fact, sixteen percent of Texas’ population is in rural counties. Those who choose to live and work in small towns and communities have many advantages, such as low crime rates and a good quality of life. But one advantage they don’t have is fast Internet connections. While urban businesses and a few residential areas have high-speed Internet access or broadband technology, most rural communities do not. The World Wide Web increasingly frustrates the farmers, ranchers and families who live there. To them it is better known as the “World Wide Wait.” Technology holds the power to transform and everyone should have equal access to its improvements and innovations. Broadband holds the promise of bringing Internet access to rural America at least one hundred times faster than a standard modem. Schools are using the Internet and need faster connections to enhance the students’ learning experiences. In 1994, 35 percent of public elementary and secondary schools had computers connected to the Internet. By 1999, that number increased to 95percent. Businesses, including farmers and ranchers, also benefit from the Internet with better access to market information and increased productivity. Agriculture is still a major component of the U.S. economy. It’s the nation’s leading trade surplus industry and generates approximately 17 percent of the America’s Gross Domestic Product. Farmers and ranchers now rely heavily on computers and the Internet. Up to two-thirds of agricultural producers have Internet access and now use it for research as well as to conduct daily business. But due to the speed of their connections, many of them are unable to participate in a large portion of the online market. Speed counts. According to a national survey, if U.S. farmers had broadband access last year, their savings in input costs and gains from greater marketing efficiencies would have netted them at least $5.8 billion. America’s rural areas need broadband technology to compete in an ever-changing world. I have introduced legislation to speed up the deployment of high-speed Internet access to rural America. The Rural America Broadband Deployment Act will provide $300 million over the next three years to the United States Department of Agriculture rural development program for broadband deployment. Technology continues to change every facet of our lives. It is the key to the future. That’s why residents of rural areas need to have the same technological advantages as their urban counterparts.

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