Government to undertake telecommunications review: What could make a difference on farm?

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The government has launched an in-depth review of the telecommunications market, both for mobile and fixed communications such as broadband. This work has started with an initial call for evidence, which runs to the end of this month (January).

The NFU will be responding and would welcome your views as to what the government should do to get more farms access to efficient mobile and broadband infrastructure.

See below for some key questions and how you can send us your views.

The government is seeking to promote world class digital connectivity, but knows that more needs to be done to improve the way businesses and homes are connected, both now and as technologies develop.

The NFU believes this has to be a priority for farming businesses, especially given many businesses have not benefited from government funding programmes to date. Only 15% of farmers tell us they have a mobile signal across the whole farm and the vast majority do not have access to superfast broadband connections.

The NFU has led the call for better connectivity on farm, using the unique NFU member survey evidence to show what services farmers can actually receive. To continue to keep farming on the government’s agenda we would also welcome your views on the following key questions:

  • What are the barriers to investing in digital infrastructure on farm, both now and over the coming decades?
  • How could the government encourage investment in digital infrastructure? Is there a need for a different approach in different areas of the UK and different parts of the telecommunications market?
  • What policy changes does the government need to make? Do we need greater competition, or measures to make investment on farms and rural areas more attractive or does the government need to actually intervene in the digital markets?

Members can email comments by Monday 29 January for inclusion in the NFU's response to the call for evidence. 

To raise any specific concerns about how broadband and/or mobile issues are impacting on your farm business, you can speak to your county adviser or regional office.

Last edited on: 15:01:2018

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NFU members: Have your say

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  • Posted by: Albert BullPosted on: 25/01/2018 10:46:24

    Comment: We do not get a basic mobile signal here SN8 4DU. We have a small caravan site and other interests. Visitors are dismayed when they have no signals, they have to drive half mile to get a poor signal. Some leave in disgust Large orienteering events are held in West Woods. People knock on the door to use a land line!! We need a aerial on the Oare ridge west of the road at the top of Oare Hill. This would cover the whole area North and South The MP has been assured by the phone company's there is a good signal in the whole area, this is not true. I want to see a proper survey done about the signals in the whole area west and south of Marlborough made made public, they should not be able to get away by lying about the problem.
  • Posted by: J Tennant-SmithPosted on: 25/01/2018 12:28:41

    Comment: Broadband speeds are understandably poor in rural locations, given the inevitable long length of copper wire to the nearest cabinet (never mind to the nearest exchange). My farmhouse has a download speed of ~2Mb/s via the landline.

    Whilst 2Mb/s is not much use for streaming films, it is sufficient for basic farm business use - e.g. reporting animal movements online, submitting VAT returns, online banking etc.

    This is however NOT the case when the broadband connection is lost completely.
    BT Openreach lines invariably run overhead in rural locations, and are more exposed to weather related damage. We have suffered on a number of occasions from damage on an overhead line (invariably where the damaged line can still support a crackly voice line but cannot maintain a broadband connection).

    Farms are businesses and invariably will pay for business telephone contracts with their ISP. In theory this means there should be a higher minimum service level compared to a residential connection - e.g. a business SLA might guarantee a fault on a business line will be rectified within 1 business day.
    In practice these agreements are WORTHLESS since BT Openreach always trigger a 'get-out clause' for weather-related damage.
    In practice, in our experience, broadband outages due to cable damage ALWAYS take several days to resolve.
    Given farmers are required to report cattle movements online within 3days, with the prospect of loss of subsidy for any non-compliance, this is clearly puts us in a perilous position.

    In urban locations, fibre-to-cabinet and nowadays even fibre-to-premises are being used to improve broadband speeds. Where distances are small and housing density is high, this is clearly going to be a cost-effective solution.
    By comparison, running optic fibre into remote rural locations (where you can easily have say a km of landline serving a single farmhouse) is bound to be a hugely more expensive solution. It also would not necessarily improve reliability given optic fibre would presumably still
  • Posted by: Clive LittletonPosted on: 26/01/2018 11:26:21

    Comment: We have less than 1Mb, usually about 0.5. It impacts our small holiday business badly, as tourists expect a good internet experience on holiday. Its often so bad that we cant properly connect to BCMS or the bPS system. In desperation tried Satellite but that was prohibitively expensive and not much better and very erratic. Don,t have good enough mobile signal here to try that option. BT did try to sell me a dedicated fibre line, at a multi thousands of pounds installation, and £400 per month service charges!

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