By Jim Byrum
As Michigan's second largest industry and employer of more than 1 million people, agriculture is always looking for ways to continue growing and creating local jobs. New technology is a key part of the equation. Michigan agriculture is already a recognized leader in deploying new science to how we produce food, fuel and fiber, from site-specific application to clean energy to genetics.
High-tech communications is an essential frontier, and that's why Michigan agricultural businesses support the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile.
Improving access to high-speed Internet, 4-G broadband and other technologies aimed at enhancing communication capabilities across rural Michigan is vital to agricultural production, processing and marketing in the 21st Century. Agriculture production has changed significantly in the past 15 years and technology is responsible for much of the progress. The same can be said for the future.
The AT&T acquisition of T-Mobile is an opportunity to advance the communications and data transfer systems that are key drivers for the future of agricultural businesses. The merger will create a system that can handle more information traffic, meaning better service, fewer dropped calls and faster data speeds on wireless devices.
More importantly, if this merger is approved, AT&T plans to deliver high-speed wireless Internet to most of the U.S. population – many in small towns and rural areas. For Michigan, this merger will improve the communications infrastructure in rural communities, allowing Michigan agriculture to better compete in the global marketplace.
On the flip side, without access to affordable high-speed Internet, farmers and agricultural businesses will be at a real disadvantage, hampered in our ability to compete with other countries.
Additionally, access to wireless broadband will provide many other advantages, including educational resources, business marketing opportunities for Michigan agriculture, and tools for enhancing environmental stewardship.
Michigan is a national leader in many products, commodities and specialty crops. The merger can make us even better.
By bringing reliable high-speed wireless service to rural agricultural communities in Michigan, this merger can help further the development and prosperity of businesses engaged in agriculture. Rural areas that still lack high-speed broadband access can now be reached and connected. Given the speed of global competition, broadband technology can be the difference between success and failure for a business if they are located in rural Michigan.
Congress can do its part to help make Michigan more productive and more competitive in today's agricultural economy, by approving the AT&T-T-Mobile merger.
Jim Byrum is President of the Michigan Agri-Business Association. He can be reached at (517) 285-2306