While Iowa is making strides to get rural areas connected to high-speed internet service, many areas are still lacking. Jess Peterson, executive vice president of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, says he favors expanding the nation’s broadband coverage, especially to rural areas in states like Iowa.

“It’s crazy that we’re sitting here in 2011 and you look at a recent report and it shows nearly 28-percent of rural Americans, nearly 19-million people, don’t have access to high speed internet,” Peterson says. “That doesn’t include those who have slow internet connections like dial up or even that satellite dish which is a little bit costly and if it snows or rains it can knock you off.” Peterson says imagine if those on Wall Street didn’t have instant access to the internet or if it took a business owner a half hour to place an order with a supplier. Many rural Americans are putting up with slow connections, he says, while trying to run a business, their family farm or ranch.

“That ability to see cattle, to buy cattle, to see how they’re trading along with all the corn, commodity prices, all in real time along with the weather, that all affects how you make your business decisions,” Peterson says. “What prices are you going to be taking? But, if you don’t have that access, you’re out in the dark and really negatively affects your business.” Peterson says President Obama is calling for a National Wireless Initiative to make high-speed wireless services available to at least 98-percent of Americans. Peterson hopes Iowans will urge their lawmakers to support the initiative, too.

“Please, be supportive,” he says. “Whether it’s public-private partnerships, USDA programs, grant-loan programs to rural development are helpful. The private investment this expansion to rural areas is so critical and a good idea can be hampered by red tape.” Peterson says some people in powerful places don’t care whether high-speed internet service is available to everyone, as long as they can connect anytime and anywhere. He says if they are business owners, they should think again.

“It might be once, twice a week if you have to go 30, 40, 50 miles to the nearest place to make your purchases, but if you’re on-line and have that access, you have virtually on-the-hour purchase ability,” Peterson says. “That’s huge to buy goods and services out of urban areas, so we’re really trying to tell this story. These are potential customers. This is a commerce issue, just like putting in the interstate.”

Peterson says high-speed internet will also improve “distance education,” which is especially important in remote and rural communities so students have access to classes they may not otherwise get. He says rural Americans will also have access to better health care through telemedicine technology.

By Karla James