Rural AL farmers await passage of high-speed internet legislation

Rural AL farmers await passage of high-speed internet legislation
Farmer Rusty Wood spends several hours a week on conducting farm business on his laptop or iPad, but connectivity is slow. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

AUTAUGA CO., AL (WSFA) - It's become quite a hassle for many rural farmers in Alabama. Changing times are forcing them to conduct farm business on their laptops or computers but the speed is rarely there, which costs money, time and production. But maybe not for long.

Rusty Wood knows for at least one hour a day he expects to get frustrated, irritated and often wonders if it's worth farming anymore. Wood is a cattleman on the Autauga-Dallas County line.

"And that's the problem. Still waiting to sign on. It can take up to about five minutes, back and forth," Wood explained.

But Wood's daily dilemma could very well change for the better. State Senator Clay Scofield is behind the SB 149 which would provide internet companies a 10 percent tax credit and tax exemptions if they would, in turn, provide high-speed internet service to rural farmers.

"We are one of the first states to try to fix this problem," Scofield said. He, himself, is a cattleman and poultry farmer in north Alabama.

The bill has already passed the Senate and is now with a committee in the House.

"I feel good about it," the senator said, though he cautions farmers that even if the Houses passes the measure, farmers won't see an immediate change in their internet service. It will take a couple of years for those companies to lay down fiber lines or a new tower depending on the circumstances.

Rusty Wood says there is no doubt in his mind if he had quicker internet service, his farming business would improve by as much as five percent, if not more.

This way of life has taught Wood patience when it comes to weathering the ups and downs of farm life, sorting through the agonizing wait on his laptop won't be any different.

"I can still do my work. It just takes extra time," he said.

Scofield tells WSFA 12 News a World Bank study done three years ago showed that just a ten percent increase in high-speed internet would increase economic growth in rural areas by around 1.2 percent.

ALFA leaders say they fully support the legislation.

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