The Importance of Getting Connected

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The last year and a half has been challenging to say the least. The global pandemic has shifted the way many of us work, worship, learn, and even shop. Our normal routines were abruptly changed, forcing entire industries, schools, and churches to pivot in order to meet the needs of their clients, students, or congregations. There have been successes and there have been many failures. As we reflect back, we can all probably think of a time we each struggled to push through to make things happen and the frustration we experienced along the “technological” way.

It may come as a surprise to some, but our agriculture industry is one of many industries in need of good internet connectivity. As an example, my nephew’s laptop has almost become a permanent fixture on our kitchen table at home. “Why?”  you ask. He is working as an intern for a leading precision agricultural company based out of Minnesota this summer, covering territory up and down the east coast. He drives all over rural areas to capture drone images of crop fields, providing time-sensitive data for optimizing crop performance for clients. But that’s just the beginning of the task. What follows is the time-consuming uploading of all the high-resolution images that takes hours to complete, even with decent connectivity. Unfortunately, the average internet speed at his house, less than a half a mile away, is only 5-6 megabits per second. Lucky for him, his uncle living on the other side of the swamp has access to a different provider currently delivering speeds up to 200 megabits per second. Imagine how important rural broadband is to a company trying to deliver time-sensitive information to their clients.

American agriculture will continue to see rapid adoption of precision technology in order to remain competitive in a global economy with mounting pressures to do so in sustainable and environmentally friendly ways. Agriculture has changed a lot over the last few decades, and experts claim even more technological advances are on the horizon.

As I write this column, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center is preparing to participate in a unique Precision Agriculture Field Day in Kinston, NC. Key partners like UNC-Chapel Hill, the United Sates Department of Agriculture, NC State University, and many others are beginning to collaborate to demonstrate the benefits in production agriculture. It is exciting to see major equipment manufacturers, communications technology companies, robotics and broadband experts, and connectivity advocates coming together to support such an important endeavor.

Unfortunately, this pandemic has highlighted the unfair advantage our urban neighbors have when it comes to access of broadband communication. Let’s face it – connectivity to the internet has given businesses and individuals alike a competitive edge in today’s internet dependent society. Fortunately, our elected officials have realized it too because this issue affects their constituents on a grand scale from healthcare, education, and jobs.

Much energy and funding are now being channeled to help address the lack of rural broadband. However, rural residents have an important part to play moving forward. Request are now being made by the Lumber River Council of Governments (LRCOG) in conjunction with its members in Bladen, Hoke, Richmond, Robeson, and Scotland counties for residents to participate in surveys to help identify areas of need. Regardless if you already have access or not, your participation is critical for guiding the process in the most efficient way. By participating in this survey, you will help your county plan for a connected future. You can access the survey at the Lumber River Council of Governments website or by calling 910-618-5533. I encourage you to do your part to build a better tomorrow by participating before August 31.

For more information, please contact Mac Malloy, Extension Field Crop Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 671-3276, by E-mail at, or visit our website.