Thune, Carr speak on importance of internet for future of SD Ag


Brock Brown, Reporter (He/Him)

South Dakota State University had U.S. Sen. John Thune and Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Commissioner Brendan Carr impressed by the new Raven Precision Agriculture Center.

Thune and Carr were guests of South Dakota State University Tuesday, May 4 to tour the new precision ag center, which is to be completed this June.

The FCC is the federal government’s regulatory agency tasked with approval of everything from internet connectivity to new cell towers. Carr has been traveling around South Dakota with individuals like Gov. Kristi Noem in Rowana, where he climbed a 2,000-foot tower, and Thune, with whom he toured SDSU’s cow-calf unit.

Carr and Thune both expressed their admiration for the partnership between industry and SDSU while stressing the importance of internet connectivity for the next generation of precision ag graduates when they enter the field.

“Conductivity plays such an important role right now for America’s producers,” Carr said. “You have tractors that are effectively mini data centers.”

Thune also stressed the importance of internet connectivity in agriculture because of the field’s wide-spread impact on everyone living in the state.

“Anything we can do to make agriculture more efficient and more productive is not only good for the individual farmer and families, but is good for the economy of South Dakota,” he said.

Currently, the four members of the FCC operate out of Washington D.C., but their policies affect the entire nation. Thune thinks it is important to get commissioners to South Dakota to show them the effects their policies have on everyday people and why they should support South Dakota’s effects to increase connectivity.

Thune also said he hopes that by coming to South Dakota, Carr will “learn more about how things tick out here.”

“We’re trying to argue about certain federal assets, resources and how we can apply them in South Dakota, Commissioner Carr gets it,” Thune said.

Carr recognized the importance of internet connectivity in South Dakota and the progress the state has made in this area recently; in the 2021 legislative session, $75 million was appropriated to broadband expansion in South Dakota.

“We need to make sure those in Washington continue to do our job of making sure America’s producers have those high speech connections,” Carr said, “and that internet conductivity is not only in those city centers, but rural communities need a fair shot, as well.”

Carr also believes that South Dakota “is on the leading edge of conductivity,” and supports a transition to 5G connectivity.

“5G is the next generation of conductivity,” Carr said. “We need to make sure that 5G gets built out everywhere in this county, not just in Manhattan or San Francisco but Sioux Falls, Parker- all way across.”

Carr is concerned that without continued support for 5G, America would see a step backwards in progress towards ending gaps in service connection.

“We need policies in place that’s gonna be continuous on that [current] trajectory … ,” Carr said. “I think it would slow down the internet builds that have been accelerating in the last couple of years.”

Thune currently serves as the ranking member on the Senate’s subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet, which oversees the FCC, according to Thune. In that role, the two have worked together on the progress of 5G expansion in South Dakota. Thune also recognized the work of Carr in finding areas that lacked services and then working towards improving their connectivity.

“Since Commissioner Carr has been there, they have done a really nice job of identifying these areas around the country that are under-served or unserved, and allocated resources in way that makes sure no matter where you live in this country, you will benefit from these technologies, and their emphasis on 5G is really critical,” Thune said.

5G has proven to be a controversial topic, but Thune expressed the importance that 5G connectivity has in relation to South Dakota’s future, especially as more business and education occurs online.

“5G is 100 times faster, 100 more devices connected; this is multiples of anything we’ve seen before,” Thune said. “4G was so important to our economy, so if you want the job growth, the income growth, the economic growth that comes with these technological innovations, then you’ve got to have 5G networks being built out, and the commission has been very dedicated to that, and we’ve seen that in South Dakota.”