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How faster internet service could benefit Slippery Rock farmers

Nikole and Cory Stuchal own Stuchal Farms in the Slippery Rock area, where they have implemented GPS technology to help track fertilizer output. Submitted photo

As Pennsylvania is set to receive millions of dollars in funding to help expand broadband access to residents in the state, local farmers Nikole and Cory Stuchal explained the need people such as themselves have for a more-reliable broadband system in northern part of the county.

“Our stretch of road, we only have one option for a provider,” Nikole said. “The cable companies don’t come out this way. We normally do have service, but don’t have a lot of options. I know when they were fixing this stuff in the past, they said some of the stuff is pretty aged.”

The Struchals own Stuchal Farms in the Slippery Rock area. Their current internet provider is Brightspeed.

Because of their location, they and some of their neighbors are not serviced by Armstrong. Its service stops down the road from their farm.

Faster service would help

“Faster internet would definitely be helpful,” Cory said. “For our mapping software, it would make for quicker downloads.”

Cory said relies on GPS technology to help with spreading fertilizer in order to bring down costs from spreading too much in one area.

“One acre might need a 100 pounds of potash, another might need 300,“ Cory said. ”Instead of going out and spreading fertilizer at one rate, as we are driving across the field, the spreader is changing the rate on the go.”

Considering the Stuchals are responsible for 2,000 acres, faster service would go a long way.

Cory explained GPS systems on farms has been up and coming for about the past 15 years, and it makes more sense for those who operate large farms.

“It’s pretty widely used in some way, shape, or form,” Cory said. “It’s a big expense, (but) for the larger operators, it’s easier to get into because they can spread it out over more acres and get your costs back.”

Nikole and Cory Stuchal are the owners of Stuchal Farms, where they have implemented GPS technology to help track fertilizer output. Submitted photo
Trends lean towards technology

Butler County Commissioner Kevin Boozel said that trends such as the ones at Stuchal Farms have become more normal as technology grows faster than broadband systems can keep up with.

“As businesses transition from labor intensive, manual calculations and so on and into more technology, they are going to have a growing need,” Boozel said.

In order for Butler County’s rural areas to get more funding for broadband expansion projects, Boozel and other commissioners are urging residents to point out any discrepancies in the broadband coverage map released recently by the Federal Communications Commission.

The map shows that fixed broadband is available across most of Butler County at a speed of 25/3 Mbps or greater. Mobile broadband, per the map, is less consistent.

The map can be found at broadbandmap.fcc.gov/home.

“To be able to expand broadband to those areas for those businesses, it will be a drastic organizational impact,” Butler County Chamber of Commerce president Jordan Grady said.

Although the map might show that coverage is available in some remote areas, the coverage is weak and often unreliable, he said.

“The entire goal of this infrastructure build-out is that every household and business should have access to internet at the broadband level,” Boozel said. “It’s not just economically driven, it’s necessity driven.”

Residents are able to challenge the incorrect data they see on the map when visiting the FCC’s website. After navigating to an address within the FCC National Broadband Map, people can click “availability challenge” if they feel the map is incorrect.

Grady said he is eager to see the broadband initiatives Butler County will put forward with its federal money, based off the things he has seen York County do.

“York County is building fiber rings that the county will own,” Grady said. “Once completed, internet service providers will then lease these county-owned assets and generate $60,000 to $70,000 a year.

“I think it puts us in play to be one of the most attractive, open-for-business counties in southwestern Pennsylvania. The state is committed to lowering the corporate net income tax to 4.99% over the next decade, which would make Pennsylvania one of the most business friendly states.”

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