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High-Speed Internet Needed for ‘Rural Prosperity,’ USDA Says

This USDA graphic shows the importance of e-connectivity for rural prosperity.

Staff reports

Five areas are critical for rural prosperity, according to the USDA.

E-connectivity was the No. 1 “call to action,” in a recent USDA report.

“Rural prosperity can only truly be achieved by connecting rural America to high-speed internet,” the report said.

Other key areas were: quality of life, rural workforce, technological innovation and economic development.

Below are some highlights from the rural prosperity report, which was authored by a task force created by President Donald Trump.

e-Connectivity for Rural America

“Reliable and affordable high-speed nternet connectivity will transform rural America as a key catalyst for prosperity,” the report says.

Electronic connectivity has become “essential” in “today’s information-driven global economy” and allows for “increased productivity” for farms, factories and small businesses.

“Unfortunately, rural areas remain less connected to reliable high-speed Internet today than metropolitan areas and have lower usage rates compared with urban areas,” the report stated. “As a result, a wide array of digital services and activities — from e-commerce to telehealth to digital learning— are becoming an increasingly important feature for a prosperous rural life.”

A recent study found that the rural broadband industry in 2015 supported nearly 70,000 jobs.

Alcorn County is expected to take part in a webinar Tuesday to learn how to apply for a USDA grant to expand broadband Internet.

Improving Quality of Life

Economic factors such as modern utilities, affordable housing and reliable employment should be integrated with access to medical care, public safety and education, the report added.

Supporting a Rural Workforce

Communities must identify employment needs, attract workers from other areas and provide workforce training.

Partnerships can be developed with businesses to identify workforce gaps, and educational institutions can help fulfill training needs.

Harnessing Technological Innovation

Rising populations worldwide will give way to higher demands crop output. Technology can improve crop volumes and quality, and STEM education will play a key role.

“Leveraging these innovations in an increasingly data-driven economy will also require further development of rural data-management capabilities,” the report stated.

Economic Development

Increasing the productivity of farmers and ranchers through expanded funding will increase the competitiveness of the rural United States. Investing in rural transportation infrastructure, reducing regulations and attracting private capital are other strategies.

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