the technologies. Professional organizations involved in precision agriculture, such as the Alliance on Agricultural Information Technology, have already called for "clearinghouses," unbiased sources of comparative information on alternative precision agriculture methods which could be set up and operated by extension services or others who work directly with producers. A broader public purpose would be served if the clearinghouse function included unbiased comparisons of benefits, costs, and effects of precision agriculture adoption and use. Information service providers could help address specific problems that arise from precision agriculture and could play a role in promoting socially beneficial aspects, such as environmentally sound approaches. In the legal arena, templates, forms, and model contracts are needed to avoid conflicts associated with data ownership, intellectual property rights, and the protection of privacy.
The extension system would seem to be suited to such a public information role, but deficiencies in specialized scientific and technical training of current agents raises questions of capacity and capability. The rapid technological changes occurring in diverse areas of precision agriculture, including chemical pest management, environmental improvement, and farm electronics, present an enormous challenge to extension. Moreover, the need to integrate these technologies within a systems view of agricultural management makes its leadership in precision agriculture information problematic.
High-speed data connectivity is needed in rural areas to support precision agriculture. Agricultural organizations and agencies should work collaboratively with public agencies and industries to ensure adequate rural connectivity.
The communications infrastructure such as satellites, high-speed telecommunications services, and the Internet will be essential if precision agriculture is to develop to its full potential. Extensive adoption of precision agriculture will depend on access to a modern information infrastructure in rural areas, particularly telecommunication services such as the Internet. Such communications services will similarly be essential for taking full advantage of the data-generation capabilities of precision agriculture technologies described previously.
Private industry may provide little of this communications infrastructure. Infrastructure investments are characterized by substantial economies of scale because the cost of building the infrastructure is high, whereas the cost of providing service to additional customers once the infrastructure is in place tends to be low. Firms can recoup the needed investment in infrastructure by charging sufficiently high access fees and usage charges. Such charges will tend to inhibit use, however, so that use by some firms and individuals will remain below efficient levels. Moreover, private industry may not find it profitable to provide infrastructure