H.R. 4881 would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to form a task force to evaluate the best ways to meet the broadband needs of precision agriculture in the United States. The task force would focus on identifying and measuring gaps in broadband coverage, and developing policy recommendations to promote rapid, expanded deployment of broadband in agricultural areas.
Precision agriculture is the use of technology like the Internet of Things (IoT), self-driving machinery, drones, and satellites to farm in a more effective and efficient manner. Because rural areas often have less access to high-speed broadband connectivity, the agricultural community has more difficulty integrating the new technology that could make their work easier, safer, and better for the environment, while helping farmers and ranchers increase their yield to get the most out of their land.
The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jul 23, 2018.
Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018
(Sec. 3) This bill requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish the Task Force for Reviewing the Connectivity and Technology Needs of Precision Agriculture in the United States.
The task force's duties include:
identifying and measuring current gaps in the availability of broadband Internet access service on agricultural land; developing policy recommendations to promote the rapid, expanded deployment of fixed and mobile broadband Internet access service on unserved agricultural land, with a goal of achieving reliable capabilities on 95% of agricultural land in the United States by 2025; promoting effective policy and regulatory solutions that encourage the adoption of broadband Internet access service on farms and ranches and promote precision agriculture; recommending specific new rules or amendments to existing FCC rules; recommending specific steps that the FCC should take to obtain reliable and standardized data measurements of the availability of broadband Internet access service as necessary to target funding support, from future FCC programs dedicated to the deployment of such service, to unserved agricultural land; and recommending specific steps that the FCC should consider to ensure that the expertise of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and available farm data are reflected in such future FCC programs. USDA and the FCC shall jointly submit to the task force a list of all federal programs or resources available for the expansion of broadband Internet access service on unserved agricultural land.
The task force must submit annually to the FCC a report that details: (1) the status of fixed and mobile broadband Internet access service coverage of agricultural land; (2) the projected future connectivity need of agricultural operations, farmers, and ranchers; and (3) steps taken to accurately measure the availability of broadband Internet access service on agricultural land and the limitations of current measurement processes.
The FCC shall renew the task force every two years until it terminates on January 1, 2025.
(Sec. 4) No additional funds are authorized to carry out this bill.