Net Neutrality in the Age of Digital Farming

Is the Internet as a “pipeline” for data a public utility, or an entity that should be open for manipulation by Internet service providers (ISPs)? That’s the essential question surrounding the concept of “net neutrality” that is once again making the news.

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) recently proposed rule changes to how data flows around the Internet. These rule changes address the ability of ISPs to selectively change the speed and availability of Internet traffic. Current rules, which support the concept of net neutrality, treat the Internet as a public utility or common carrier, meaning that all data on the Internet must be treated the same.

Net neutrality has three primary tenants: no blocking, no throttling, and no pay-for-priority. No blocking means that the ISP cannot prevent access to specific websites. Throttling and pay-for-priority, common practices for many ISP providers, has to do with Internet speeds. Throttling is slowing down access to specific sites or services, and pay-for-priority means that websites could pay the ISP to guarantee fast access to their content.

How would the Internet work in a post-net neutral system? Most of the examples being discussed address entertainment content, mainly because streaming video requires a lot of bandwidth. Netflix could be asked to pay a premium to ISPs to guarantee that customers using their service get priority. An ISP could limit customers to a specific amount of data from YouTube or ask them to pay additional fees if they exceed that limit.

These are good examples, but what about farmers and rural agribusinesses, who use the Internet for much more than entertainment?

Successfully implementing modern digital farming depends on access to the Internet. Data comes from multiple sources such as weather stations, soil maps, soil moisture sensors, telemetry from machines, etc., and this data passes through the data “pipeline” we call the Internet. The assumption has always been that the data would flow uninhibited as fast as the network would allow – but that assumption may not always be true.

Agriculture is very good at producing large amounts of data. For example, check out the recent world record that The Ohio State University set for a single corn plant. More and more applications are being developed for imagery, such as from UAVs, which require extensive bandwidth to upload and process. Researchers, OEMs, and trusted advisors are leveraging from collecting data to using that data effectively to make real-world management decisions.

Think of digital farming data as a raw resource. Data is like crude oil that needs to get to a refinery where it can be made into a value-added transportation fuel and then delivered to a place where it can be used. The Internet is the pipeline connecting all of the data sources to the farmer or trusted advisor where the data is distilled into actionable insights about their farming operations and then sent to their employees or equipment to put into practice. What happens if the farmer’s local ISP now dictates that only one image of their field can be uploaded or that your tractor manufacturer did not pay for priority so you can only get telemetry data that updates once every 30 minutes instead of every 30 seconds?

Modern agricultural equipment has benefitted from standardization: three-point hitches, PTO shafts, and hydraulic couplers, to name a few. The most recent standardization is the communications network that allows equipment and implements to communicate across brands. The industry as a whole is working to ensure that data from all different sources can be shared effectively and quickly.

Should it come to pass, the impact of eliminating net neutrality on digital farming has yet to be seen. But precision agriculture practitioners should be watching this space closely – this is not just an issue for gamers or entertainment consumers, but for those of us who believe that the Internet has made farming better.

Leave a Reply to Tom Quade Cancel reply

One comment on “Net Neutrality in the Age of Digital Farming

  1. I’m just wondering if there was a federal PTO shaft commission that set the standards or perhaps a Federal 3 point hitch commission? “net neutrality” will be anything but ‘neutral’ once the feds decide who is given monopoly status and what servicices must be provided at what price. increased taxes will follow. I’m old enough to remember rotary dial phones of which there was often only one in the house because Ma Bell was granted monopoly status to provide ‘universal phone service’ without competition. Long distance was prohibitively expensive and inovation proceeded at a snail pace. All that changed slowly at first with the breakup of Ma Bell, but then rapidly when wireless telephony, largely free of federal regulation, completely upset the monopoly. Cellular then merged with wireless internet and our communications world has been revolutionized. Inovation and improved service are steady and now largely taken for granted by youngsters who don’t remember the old regulated communications world. The last administration tread carefully at first with net neut, understanding the need to keep the ‘we won’t let them throttle you’ message as the face of the effort and hide the inevitable command and control aspects as long as possible. Rest assured, if we had elected a like minded administration, the command and control would have followed quickly, as well as the taxes.
    If you think net neutrality will be neutral, then you also thought the “affordable Care Act” would be affordable, that “if you liked your health plan you could keep your health plan” or your doctor if you liked him.
    I’ll trust a free market to inovate to keep my business and serve my needs better than any federal bureacracy.

Data Management Stories
Data ManagementChecking the Box: FBN Garners Ag Data Transparent Certification
May 30, 2018
Farmers Business Network (FBN) recently completed Ag Data Transparent (ADT) third-party certification, affirming that the FBN network’s data and analytics Read More
CAMP3-team
Data ManagementHow AI, Data and Voice Analysis May Transform Farming — And Grow a New Industry in the South
May 22, 2018
In 2015, an estimated $800 million worth of crops in Georgia — a number that amounted to about 13.8% of Read More
Farmer-tablet
Data ManagementWhen It Comes to Farm Data, How Good Is ‘Good Enough’?
May 21, 2018
Ron Farrell, a frequent sounding board for my wacky ideas and a source of ongoing encouragement to stay the course Read More
Data ManagementDigital Farming: Keep It Simple Analytics
May 15, 2018
In previous articles, I tried to lay out some logical components and processes that enable digital farming to get inside Read More
Trending Articles
Matt-Waits-featured
Decision Support SoftwareSST’s Matt Waits: Innovative Data Solutions Key to Transforming Global Agriculture
May 31, 2018
Proagrica, part of RELX Group, earlier this year acquired U.S.-based precision agriculture solutions company, SST Software, in a move set Read More
InfoAg ConferenceThe InfoAg Conference Offers Early Bird Registration Discount
May 24, 2018
Since 1995, The InfoAg Conference has been the premier event for discussion and advancement of precision agriculture. The event, organized Read More
Ernie-Chappell-Screenshot
EventsEFC Systems Sponsorship Demonstrates Commitment to Continuing Education for Retail Dealerships
May 16, 2018
Enterprise software manufacturer EFC Systems, scholarship sponsor of the inaugural PrecisionAg® Professional Accelerator professional development conference this June in Brookings, Read More
EventsMeister Media Debuts Growing Innovations
May 10, 2018
As a service provider, you and your grower customers probably can agree on this much: While innovation abounds in agriculture, Read More
UCANR_booth_Food_IT_forum
EventsForum Calling All Innovators of Agriculture Technology
May 2, 2018
The challenges that come with feeding the world continue to grow. Luckily, so do advances in information technology that are Read More
Farm-Storm-Clouds-Photo-Eden-Hills
Data ManagementThe Precipitation Problem in Agriculture
April 17, 2018
Precipitation is arguably the most important agricultural weather parameter, yet it is the most difficult variable to precisely measure. For Read More
Latest News
Robotics/Labor SaversStine Seed Plunks Down $5 Million on Smart Ag’s D…
June 14, 2018
Stine Seed Farm has invested $5 million in Smart Ag Inc., an Iowa technology firm that has developed a full Read More
David-Perry-featured-image
AmericasIndigo Touts ‘New Approach to Agricultural R&…
June 13, 2018
Indigo, the Boston-based microbial crop technology startup that has raised more than $400 million, announced it is expanding its research Read More
Ag Drone
EventsAgTech Conference of the South Dedicated to Innovation,…
June 12, 2018
Join current and emerging agtech business leaders and investors at the AgTech Conference of the South, a premiere conference dedicated Read More
Munckhof Machinefabriek equipment
EuropeEurope: Precision Farming at Heart of Munckhof Deal
June 11, 2018
One of Europe’s oldest suppliers of machinery used in fruit production, the Dutch firm Munckhof Machinefabriek, has been purchased by Read More
Australian-Farmers
Australia/New ZealandCrunching the Ag-Tech Numbers Saves Time for Australian…
June 5, 2018
Time management is key on the Walker family’s farm, where a mix between cropping, commercial sheep and two studs means Read More
Drone-exhbitor-at-Drone-Show
AmericasDroneShow Highlights UAV Technology in Latin America
June 4, 2018
Editor’s note: The DroneShow Latin America is an annual trade fair hosted by MundoGEO, a media and communications company founded Read More
Imagery/SensingImagery in Agriculture: Time for a Reality Check
June 4, 2018
Where do I begin….I’ve been dealing with imagery in agriculture since I was 10 when my dad started Satshot. At Read More
AmericasNAAA Issues Drone Pilot Reminder: Watch Out For Aerial …
May 31, 2018
With more than 1 million UAVs registered with the FAA, it is vitally important for UAV operators to be aware Read More
Matt-Waits-featured
Decision Support SoftwareSST’s Matt Waits: Innovative Data Solutions Key t…
May 31, 2018
Proagrica, part of RELX Group, earlier this year acquired U.S.-based precision agriculture solutions company, SST Software, in a move set Read More
CROO Robotics’ automated strawberry harvester
Specialty CropsGrowingProduce.com: Fruit Growers, It’s Time to Mechani…
May 30, 2018
If you’re into conspiracies, you might be interested to know that I have stumbled onto a doozy. And it looks Read More
Service ProvidersDeere Launches Bale Mobile App with Hay and Forage Yiel…
May 30, 2018
John Deere introduces its Bale Mobile app to help hay and forage producers get detailed information, improve efficiency, identify bale Read More
AGCO White planter 9800VE
Service ProvidersPrecision Planting Announces Ready Row Unit Planter Cus…
May 30, 2018
Precision Planting is reportedly making it easy and affordable for farmers to upgrade and customize their planters for their farms Read More
Data ManagementChecking the Box: FBN Garners Ag Data Transparent Certi…
May 30, 2018
Farmers Business Network (FBN) recently completed Ag Data Transparent (ADT) third-party certification, affirming that the FBN network’s data and analytics Read More
Industry NewsAGCO Forms Development Partnership with AgIntegrated
May 29, 2018
AGCO Corp., a world-leading manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment solutions, has announced a development partnership with agricultural technology company Read More
AmericasWilbur-Ellis’ Vradenburg: ‘Complexity of Ag Is Going to…
May 29, 2018
  Wilbur-Ellis announced earlier this month that Dan Vradenburg, longtime Agribusiness division president, will take on a new role in Read More
PrecisionHawk-drone-flies-over-strawberry-field
DronesHow High-Flying Technology Can Be a Game-Changer for Be…
May 29, 2018
Imagine waking up to find that Mother Nature cursed your crop with monsoon-like rains, writes Karli Petrovic on GrowingProduce.com. Despite Read More
Robotic-Field-Scanner
Robotics/Labor SaversChange is Coming to the Fruit Industry: Mechanization i…
May 29, 2018
When it comes to the mechanization of the fruit industry, and the overall goal of reducing reliance on laborers who Read More
Galileo-GNSS-Satellite
AmericasMajor GNSS Project to Boost Potential for ‘Satellite’ F…
May 29, 2018
The University of Nottingham is working with Brazilian and EU partners to solve atmospheric interference problems that hamper satellite-based positioning Read More