Tractor Supply Co. Funds Rural Internet Access
Tractor Supply Co. is working to bring more high-speed internet access to rural areas — a move that promises to encourage more consumers to download its mobile app.
The retailer said that it will join the American Connection Project Broadband Coalition (ACPBC) to leverage its resources to help bridge the rural digital divide. Through the Tractor Supply Co. Foundation, the retailer will donate $1 for every download of its mobile app before the end of the year — up to $1 million — to the efforts of the American Connection Project to close the digital divide.
Tractor Supply launched its first mobile app in July. The app, which helps customers shop faster, track orders, schedule deliveries and check Neighbor’s Club rewards, is available through the Apple Store or on Google Play. The retailer says it continues to roll out new features to the app to improve shopping convenience and accessibility.
“As the largest rural lifestyle retailer in the United States, Tractor Supply is committed to supporting those who live and love this lifestyle,” said Hal Lawton, president and CEO of Tractor Supply. “Internet connectivity is vital to conducting business, accessing healthcare and learning across America, yet our rural communities seldom have it. Our nation relies heavily on these communities, so it is imperative we all work together to ensure they have what they need to thrive.”
The Federal Communications Commission estimates that roughly 18 million Americans lack access to broadband, the majority of whom are in rural America. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, roughly 60% of farmers in the U.S. lack sufficient connectivity to run their business, while 25% of farms have no internet access whatsoever. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, internet connectivity has become even more important, providing the primary link to business transactions, online classes, telehealth appointments, social interactions and news.
Tractor Supply joins more than 100 organizations from multiple industries including agriculture, tech, finance, healthcare, education and more that are members of the American Connection Project Broadband Coalition, which was spearheaded by farmer-owned cooperative Land O’Lakes Inc.
Officially launched in July 2020, the coalition spans organizations across multiple industries, who are dedicated to helping close America’s digital divide. The ACPBC advocates for public and private sector investment to bring high-speed internet infrastructure to areas that lack access, in addition to advocating for policies and contributing their own resources to facilitate remote education, health and mental health services, job opportunities and more, with the goal of connecting and lifting up all American communities through access to modern digital technology.
“Like Land O’Lakes and so many of our partners in the American Connection Project Broadband Coalition, Tractor Supply Company understands that strong businesses are enabled by strong communities that provide strong operating environments,” said Beth Ford, president and CEO of Land O’Lakes, Inc. “The coronavirus pandemic has shown how dependent we all are on being connected to one another, and how much those who lack reliable internet access are at risk of falling behind. We are enormously grateful that Tractor Supply is joining our coalition, and we look forward to working with them to close the digital divide.”
Tractor Supply also said it will pilot free Wi-Fi access from select store parking lots during operating hours. This will allow the public to have high-speed internet access, excluding streaming capabilities, from the privacy and social distance of their vehicles. With a store base of 1,900 stores across 49 states, Tractor Supply anticipates the potential rollout of public Wi-Fi to continue across its store footprint based on its experience with the initial stores in the pilot.
And to alleviate additional challenges families in rural areas face from the shift to virtual learning, Tractor Supply has provided – free of charge – 3,000 Chromebook computers to hourly employees with school-age children.