For years, broadband policy debates in Congress have gotten wrapped around the axle of “net neutrality” — the idea that broadband providers shouldn’t be able to obstruct the open internet by blocking or throttling traffic.

While protecting the open internet is quite popular, both parties have failed to work out a reasonable compromise. Most recently, the debate has become bogged down by demands to regulate internet providers as public utilities. Experts warn the red tape that comes with utility regulations could scare off the investment we desperately need to build out broadband lines in rural areas, which is why the idea has been declared “dead on arrival” in the Senate.

Farms across Montana are rapidly adopting new technologies — from smart sensors monitoring soil conditions to small drones and even autonomous equipment. These advances offer the potential to increase yields, reduce the use of expensive pesticides and herbicides, and reduce losses when storing harvests — all of which represents a significant economic opportunity for family farmers.

But taking full advantage of this “smart agriculture” revolution requires both an open internet and greatly improved broadband infrastructure in rural areas. Let’s protect the open internet, but with a modern approach that gives us all the consumer protections we need without the red tape we don’t.

That’s just common sense — the kind of pragmatic bipartisanship that has long been a hallmark for Montanans. I hope Senators Daines and Tester step up and show their colleagues in Washington the right way to govern.

–Lyle Shannon, Fairfield, Mont.

Load comments