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404: No broadband found; rural areas suffer from lack of access

Updated: May. 29, 2021 at 2:04 PM EDT
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RUSSELL COUNTY, Ala. (WTVM) - The country’s dependence upon the internet has never been on display more than it is right now. It’s a huge topic of discussion from the local levels of government all the way to Washington, D.C.

The term “rural broadband” is one you will hear often.

The clouds in the sky are one of the most important on the farm, but the clouds powered by the internet have become a major part of farming.

Garrett Dixon is a fifth generation farmer in Russell County. He operates his very own Dixon Farms. His grandfather might be stunned to see that tractors can drive themselves now.

As a matter of fact, Dixon’s grandfather appeared on WTVM in the early 1990s when things were a lot different.

“Well, last year didn’t bring a good crop for most cotton farmers, but it’s time to put all of that behind and start a new season,” said news anchor Dee Armstrong in a WTVM news clip.

“I’ve seen quite a few changes, I sure have,” Dixon’s grandfather can be heard saying in the 1994 news clip.

“I don’t know what he’d say. He’d probably almost be skeptical at first because that first time when you engage the auto-steer and it takes off down the row and you’re not doing anything. It’s kind of a, almost a surreal feeling,” said Dixon.

Nowadays, the farm fields have technology that can rival any industry if there’s a reliable internet connection.

“We need it. At the end of every day when we shut off the machines and the displays, the data that we’ve accumulated syncs to the cloud so I can access it on a phone or a tablet,” Dixon added.

There’s no broadband internet available for this area. So, for Dixon, it comes down to relying on cellular signal to power what’s become a necessity on the farm.

“It really adds to our bottom line and makes us more efficient. I don’t really know how we could farm without it now” said Dixon.

This could a be a year where that hope for rural broadband becomes reality. A lot of politicians are using those buzz words out here in the constituency.

Senators Tommy Tuberville and Raphael Warnock have both discussed broadband.

On the farm, the internet has become as powerful of a tool as the tractor itself - saving the industry money along the way.

Working smarter - not harder, and Dixon says it all relies on connectivity to the digital world. “We get one shot every year to make a crop. That’s what what we wake up focusing on from February to December,” added Dixon.

While his grandfather relied on just one type of cloud, new age farmers are relying on two.

The American Farm Bureau is heavily endorsing action to get broadband access to rural communities to farmers like Dixon.

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