This story appears in VICE magazine's Dystopia and Utopia Issue. Click HERE to subscribe to VICE magazine.
Ben Wilfong leaned toward his computer screen, fingers poised over the mouse and keyboard, a ten-gallon hat above his brow. A long list of personal details appeared under the chosen lot: name, date of birth, sire—important things to know when bidding on expensive Black Angus beef cows. The actual cow that was up for auction could be seen in a video next to these stats: a kind of livestock glamour roll of the animal moving through a field. This is farming in the 21st century.
For Wilfong, however, the auction was little more than a mirage. The internet connection on his rural West Virginia farm was so agonizingly slow, there was no way to load the video in enough time to actually see the animal.
“By the time I’ve clicked to bid on cattle, the auction is over,” Wilfong told me recently. “Five seconds is an eternity in an auction. It’s cost me a lot of revenue.”
Wilfong is one of the more than 24 million Americans, or about 8 percent of the country, who don’t have access to high-speed internet, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)—and that’s a conservative estimate. Most of them live in rural and tribal areas, though the problem affects urban communities, too. In every single state, a portion of the population doesn’t have access to broadband.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.