MCLEAN COUNTY, Ill. (WMBD) — McLean County is one of five counties participating in the Illinois Soybean Association’s Broadband Breakthrough Program. The goal is to get high-speed internet in rural parts of the county.

The county is in the middle of a 16 to 18 week research process. The intent is to explore what bringing broadband to rural areas will look like. During a press conference Thursday, program leaders pushed for residents to complete a survey about their needs.

Supporters said having high-speed internet in rural areas helps with education, telehealth and attracts people to the area. The program also puts an emphasis on how internet access helps with agribusiness.

“Nowadays, with precision agriculture, down to seed drills and looking at applications of fertilizer and pesticides. These are all things now that can be automated and there are sensors that can indicate where these things need to be applied at,” said Anthony Grant, Assistant County Administrator of McLean County. “And that’s what the high-speed internet is important for is to allow these pieces of equipment to communicate with one another so that they can micro-target where these things are being applied at.”

The advancement of agribusiness will in turn help the local economy.

“There’s a study that was done by the USDA that’s estimating about a 3% – 5% increase in profitability on farms just by having access to high-speed internet. We’re talking billions of dollars,’ said Grant. “As the farm bureau pointed out, with McLean County being the number one producer of both corn and soybean. Not just in the state but nationwide, that’s talking serious dollars that’s going to come in and positively impact our economy here within McLean County.”

The survey is available until March 31. To access the survey go to any McLean County Public Library or click here.