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 ManagementBlockchain: Making Data Cleaner, More Secure
January 16, 2018
Probably most professionals who deal with business data have at least heard the term “blockchain” bantered about as potentially the Read More
Soybean-field-clouds-Photo-courtesy-of-Earl-R-Shumaker
Data ManagementBetting on Rain? The Accuracy and Reliability of Precipitation Forecasts
January 16, 2018
For you sports junkies out there, if I could prove to you that I can correctly predict winners and losers Read More
Data ManagementAgGateway Grain Traceability Proof-of-Concept Seeks Industry Participation
January 15, 2018
AgGateway’s Precision Agriculture and Grain & Feed councils have issued a call for participation for a proof-of-concept initiative in AgGateway’s Read More
John-Deere-Cab-GPS
Data ManagementPrecision Ag Hardware and Software: A Little Off-Season Maintenance Goes A Long Way
January 11, 2018
All service technicians have heard this line. Most often when spring makes its anticipated return to our lives. It is Read More
Trending Articles
John-Deere-Cab-GPS
Data ManagementPrecision Ag Hardware and Software: A Little Off-Season Maintenance Goes A Long Way
January 11, 2018
All service technicians have heard this line. Most often when spring makes its anticipated return to our lives. It is Read More
Anez-Consulting-Paul-Anez-and-Michael-Dunn
Service ProvidersAnez Consulting: Focus On Fertility
January 9, 2018
Central Minnesota features variability aplenty when it comes to soil characteristics and topography, from flat, black expanses rich in organic Read More
Agrishow2017
Americas5 Best Ag Tech Shows in Brazil
January 8, 2018
Brazil continues to demonstrate its potential in agriculture. Several international companies are investing in our country because we have a Read More
Farmer and computer
Service ProvidersPrecision Agriculture Writers Wanted To Join Our Team in 2018
December 10, 2017
About The Opportunity: PrecisionAg.com is looking for people to join our team in 2018 and submit original content to our Read More
Harvested-Corn-Field-Clouds
Data ManagementWeather Services Advance Precision Agriculture
December 4, 2017
Some estimates suggest over half of growers’ activities are impacted by weather conditions, from field workability to fertility management to harvest Read More
Wheat-an-oats-Daniel-X-ONeil
Data ManagementWill Open-Source Finally Unlock Ag Technology’s Potential?
November 28, 2017
To Aaron Ault’s eyes, ag technology right now is something like a walled garden — not unlike the Microsoft of Read More
Latest News
Data ManagementBlockchain: Making Data Cleaner, More Secure
January 16, 2018
Probably most professionals who deal with business data have at least heard the term “blockchain” bantered about as potentially the Read More
Soybean-field-clouds-Photo-courtesy-of-Earl-R-Shumaker
Data ManagementBetting on Rain? The Accuracy and Reliability of Precip…
January 16, 2018
For you sports junkies out there, if I could prove to you that I can correctly predict winners and losers Read More
center-pivot-irrigation-drop-sprinklers-on-corn
Precision IrrigationFinding Your Precision Ag Mindset
January 15, 2018
A precision mindset is the most important requirement for successful precision ag technology adoption. One of my first VRI (variable Read More
Drone-and-operator-Photo-courtesy-of-Kray-Technologies
DronesCrop Protection Application by Drone: A Q&A with Kr…
January 15, 2018
January is a busy month for agricultural companies. It’s a month that strong sales can set the mood for the Read More
Data ManagementAgGateway Grain Traceability Proof-of-Concept Seeks Ind…
January 15, 2018
AgGateway’s Precision Agriculture and Grain & Feed councils have issued a call for participation for a proof-of-concept initiative in AgGateway’s Read More
John-Deere-Cab-GPS
Data ManagementPrecision Ag Hardware and Software: A Little Off-Season…
January 11, 2018
All service technicians have heard this line. Most often when spring makes its anticipated return to our lives. It is Read More
Corn-Planter
Grower Services & SolutionsCorn Planter: The Train of Consequences
January 11, 2018
It’s always planter season in our shop but now that harvest is done the corn planter is the next piece Read More
Robotics/Labor SaversSmart Ag Announces Driverless Tractor Automation Platfo…
January 11, 2018
An Iowa technology company has unlocked the tremendous potential for automation in agriculture by developing the first cloud-based platform for Read More
Anez-Consulting-Paul-Anez-and-Michael-Dunn
Service ProvidersAnez Consulting: Focus On Fertility
January 9, 2018
Central Minnesota features variability aplenty when it comes to soil characteristics and topography, from flat, black expanses rich in organic Read More
Agrible
Grower Services & SolutionsAgrible to Launch Retailer Services in 2018
January 9, 2018
It’s a new year, which means new market challenges. Full service retailers are searching for ways to differentiate themselves and Read More
jeremy-speaking
Grower Services & SolutionsGrower and Precision Ag Services: Opportunities Lost
January 9, 2018
I often spend time with growers, talking about their operations, and the processes they go through each season to do Read More
Winters-Farming-farm-manager-Alex-Bergwerff-and-Ranch-Systems-marketing-and-business-development-manager-Hylon-Kaufmann
Precision IrrigationInside California Irrigation: Winters Farming
January 9, 2018
As many of us already know, almonds tend to get a bad rap for their water-use efficiency — or some Read More
Sentera software
DronesSentera Offering Elevation Data Mapping Via AgVault
January 9, 2018
Sentera announces the availability of elevation maps within the Sentera AgVault platform, offering agronomists, crop consultants, and growers additional field Read More
Industry NewsRaven, South Dakota State University Link Up: What You …
January 9, 2018
On Tuesday afternoon Raven and South Dakota State University (SDSU) held a press conference on the SDSU campus in Sioux Read More
Agrishow2017
Americas5 Best Ag Tech Shows in Brazil
January 8, 2018
Brazil continues to demonstrate its potential in agriculture. Several international companies are investing in our country because we have a Read More
Aarav-Unmanned-Systems-team
Asia12 Indian Agritech Startups to Watch Out For in 2018
January 3, 2018
Farming is a profession of hope. And India holds the record for the second-largest agricultural land in the world, with Read More
Amazone-Amaspot
Australia/New ZealandAmazone Set to Release Weed-Detecting Sprayer in Austra…
January 2, 2018
European farm machinery giant Amazone is set to release its UX trailed weed-detecting sprayer in Australia, which it says can Read More
drone-wheat-field
DronesAgricultural Drones: From Detection to Diagnosis
January 2, 2018
There is not a remote sensing platform that is innately better at all things: satellites, manned aircraft, and unmanned aerial Read More