Sunday, January 14, 2007

Ohio farms have their own digital divide

The majority of Ohio farms still have no access to the Internet, and most of those that are connected still depend on dial-up phone modems. Farmers in every state are less connected than the general population, but Ohio's rural broadband and Internet penetration rates are among the lowest.

That's what the USDA's most recent (2005) survey of Farm Computer Usage and Ownership tells us. The study, summarized in a pdf version you can download here, found that:
  • Only 46% of Ohio farms had any kind of Internet connection in 2005, putting us firmly in the bottom quarter of all the states; and
  • even among that Net-connected minority, the share of Ohio farmers still stuck with dialup connections was the nation's third highest at 82%. Only 15% of Ohio's connected farms -- that's about 7% of all the state's farms -- had DSL or cable modem service.
Family farms are, of course, both homes and businesses. In many Ohio counties, agriculture is the first or second biggest business sector. It's an information-intensive business -- information about markets, about prices, about weather, about changing technology. And in many cases it's a business conducted far from suppliers and customers, so that modern e-commerce and communications tools can have a major impact on its competitiveness -- not to mention on its owners' quality of life.

So it's no wonder that concern about Ohio's lagging national position in rural broadband penetration transcends political parties. How long can state and community leaders of either party tolerate a broadband market that bypasses the major economic activity of many counties?

1 comment:

Chris Henney said...

Thanks for the article about Ohio agriculture's digital divide!