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Blog: Ambitious plans for Digital Economy Bill

suzanne clear and broadband signal picture, mobile, internet, rural issues, blog_33158

Suzanne Clear, NFU senior adviser for planning and rural affairs, looks at the reality for farmers and their connectivity in light of the new bill announced in the Queen’s speech.

She writes:

The Digital Economy Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech, has an ambitious purpose to make the UK a world leader in digital provision – a place where technology ceaselessly transforms the economy, society and government. 

The Bill covers three key proposals:

  • Giving every household a legal right to a fast (defined as 10 megabit per second) broadband connection. 
  • New laws to help telecommunications providers build the infrastructure needed for faster broadband and better mobile networks.
  • Allowing consumers to be automatically compensated when things go wrong with their broadband service. 

The introduction of better consumer rights is well overdue and the new laws to help build infrastructure will be of great interest to farmers and landowners, who have been waiting for the reform of the Electronic Communications Code.

Only 4% of farmers have superfast (24 megabit per second) broadband speeds, most rely on far lower speed options and 4% have none at all according to the NFU’s own survey.

Many get the speeds they can by working with alternative digital providers and community groups. The £1.7 billion Government backed superfast broadband investment programme is not delivering for them nor for many other rural dwellers  for which there are pilot projects but no superfast roll out plan. 

Instead the Bill commits to ‘giving every household a legal right to a fast broadband connection’.  A commitment that appears to have already been caveated before it has even been introduced to Parliament. 

The most remote places will have to ask to be connected and be prepared to pay more if they are remote and hence more expensive to be connected. The speed of broadband a household will be entitled to will be lower than the EU and previous Government superfast target.  Expect 10mpbs by 2020, which Ofcom considers to be ‘appropriate’ for a household now. 

There is however another way and we will championing our NFU Spotlight on Farm Broadband and Mobile Networks document to Government on behalf of the many rural farming communities for whom connectivity levels are simply unacceptable. 


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  • Posted by: Colin GricePosted on: 24/05/2016 18:44:07

    Comment: It's more of the same old empty promises.
    I would be amazed if we aren't still on 2mb broadband and no mobile signal whatsoever in five years time.
    This is a small village too not literally middle of nowhere.
    There was a £150m pot for Mobile Infrastructure Project - eighteen small masts were proposed around teh North York Moors so the various communities with no service would be able to get a signal (and 3G too - so BB problem also partly addressed!).
    Not one of these has been built and the Project almost finished now.
    Most of the funding seemed to go on surveys which found that hard to cover areas are hard to cover.
    Actually installing a few new poles is beyond them.
    As for trenching in a couple of miles of fibre - well sorry you 'll have to do that yourselves.
  • Posted by: Nick HortonPosted on: 25/05/2016 19:20:07

    Comment: There's a new 100Mbs fibre cable running past my farm gate and on to the village 5 miles away where the exchange is, and where they've put the (only?) fibre-to-copper cabinet. I'm told that the only way I can access the new service when they connect it all up is through my existing phone line; because the line length to the exchange is too long (my max speed is only 600 Kb/s) the new cable won't make a jot of difference even though I'm almost sitting on it, it's only 400/500m away from my house.
    So, if you're near the exchange your speed will be pretty good anyway and fibre'd up it'll be very fast; but if you're more than a few miles down the line you'll still be left in the dark ages. And there are thousands of places out in the sticks like my farm. Superfast rural broadband? Yes, but only if you're OK anyway. It's a very unfunny joke.... PS and now I can't even submit this because reCAPTCHA says I'm not online!
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