South Dakota’s Broadband Initiative, led by the Bureau of Information and Telecommunications (BIT), now is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Field Office in that state to survey local agricultural producers across the state regarding how to increase high-speed broadband Internet in rural areas.

Broadband Initiative’s main concern is to increase high-speed broadband Internet services to all of South Dakota, with an emphasis on rural areas, to increase economic opportunities. Agriculture is the Number One economic driver across the state, thus “extremely important to this project.”?

Earlier this month, 6,500 surveys were mailed to South Dakota ag producers to encourage participation in an Internet usage survey. The survey asks such questions as whether or not they have Internet; how they are using it; and would they use it more if it were available, faster, and more affordable? The results of the survey, which will be made available this spring, will assist in the identification of where the state needs to build or improve broadband services and speeds.

“South Dakota has a wide variety of tech-savvy ag producers who are managing small to multi-million-dollar operations over their slow data-capable cellphones, and it is our goal to fix that and to give them the competitive advantages to grow and continue their operations in the most rural areas of the state,” says Walt Bones, secretary for the S.D. Department of Agriculture. “We highly encourage farmers and ranchers to complete the survey; we want to hear from them.”??

Adds BIT Commissioner Dom Bianco, “High-speed broadband Internet can expand educational opportunities, improve public safety, enhance health-care activities and bring economic growth to the region. By providing this highly effective, low-cost tool, we are more efficiently allowing our state’s farmers and ranchers to better market their livestock, reach new customers and gain competitive advantages to grow our rural economy in the 21st century.”

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