Government must back rural broadband

rural broadband, farmer with tablet, ipad, tractor, internet, web_27666

With only four per cent of farmers having access to superfast broadband, the roll-out of complete mobile networks and affordable, reliable superfast access in rural areas must now be prioritised by government.

Both are essential to run safe and efficient farms, to comply with regulation, to promote farm diversification and for rural communities to enjoy family life. The government needs to put in place the funding, the legislation and business support to allow this to happen.

These are the findings of the NFU in its new report Farm Broadband & Mobile Networks, which was launched to MPs in London today and which picks up on the results from a comprehensive NFU survey of farmers and growers.

The NFU is concerned about the government’s broadband delivery programme, worth £1.7billion, which will leave an estimated 1.2 million premises without superfast broadband.

That's the equivalent of 5% of all premises, the majority of which will be farm businesses and rural communities. At best, farmers within this last 5% could be offered far lower speeds of 10 megabits per second by 2020, whilst  other industries and urban areas receive superfast speeds of 30Mbps or ultrafast speeds of 100Mbps plus.

NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “If our industry is to meet any of the ambitions of the long-awaited government 25-year Food and Farming Plan, it will be essential for barriers to growth to be removed.  Poor access to broadband and mobile networks is one such significant barrier and the current situation is neither sustainable nor acceptable. The government is asking farmers to run their businesses in conditions that put them at an immediate disadvantage.

“We have heard of farmers waiting 15 hours to download a Countryside Stewardship guidance booklet; farmers can’t comply with increasingly online-only regulation and aren’t able to contact their customers. Farmers can’t harness the brilliant range of agri-technology which relies on a reliable internet connection. To increase productivity you need superfast broadband, to get out of the farm office and into the field.

“Well over half of our members have diversified their farm businesses with the aim of supporting the wider rural economy, but they simply won’t be able to support this wider economy if they can’t offer high-speed broadband. This is tantamount to failure to provide the infrastructure that our industry desperately needs to flourish and compete in increasingly globalised markets.”

The NFU sets out ten key ways we can promote an effective superfast broadband and mobile phone network.  Fundamentally we need government to keep to their commitment to make the UK the best connected country in the world and to ensure a system is designed that will actually address the rural market and boost competition.  We also need the telecommunications industry to get positively involved in creating a competitive digital rural market for our members and their rural communities.

  • Posted by: Pete RobinsonPosted on: 10/05/2016 16:38:48

    Comment: How about starting an online campaign/petition eg 38 degrees?
  • Posted by: Charles TrollopePosted on: 11/05/2016 19:23:51

    Comment: The cost of broad band on my bill goes up and the Mb/s goes down. BT etc should only be permitted to charge for what they supply prorata
  • Posted by: Jane EasomPosted on: 12/05/2016 08:06:34

    Comment: We constantly hear about 95% of the country covered and rural and remot areas only left without Superfast broadband.
    We are rural but certainly not remote. Melton Mowbray is 6 miles. Leicester Nottingham and Loughborough are all 12 miles away. Openreach brought SFBB to Asfordby 3 miles from our parish and has now abandoned us.
    There are nearly 20 small businesses in our parish we have speeds of 2 Mbps or less.
    It is imperative we get the last bit of the connection from the cabinet 3 miles away.
    We are small with just over 100 households and obviously no muscle. We feel that no one gives a damn and we will NEVER get this final upgrade until hell freezes over.
    We need to NFU to coordinate a full on attack with the government AND Openreach on behalf of all country dwellers as well as farmers.
    Contact me if you like.
  • Posted by: DAVID EGLINPosted on: 12/05/2016 08:08:43

    Comment: In a recent visit to Uruguay my wife and I learnt that the whole off the country has a super fast internet that EVERY child is given a small computer before they go to school and this has now led to EVERY pensioner has been given one in this last year. The guide with us made sure to tell us that agriculture was their number one industry with very high exports. We had no trouble with mobile phones where ever we were. She did also remind us that they were the only country to win the World Cup twice and that everybody had to vote in elections pity that wouldn't follow here on 23rd and again against HS2.
  • Posted by: Josephine BaxterPosted on: 13/05/2016 11:29:26

    Comment: I am glad that the NFU is putting such time and effort into this. But the government's recent announcement that fast rural broadband was not going to be rolled out automatically is very worrying. The requirement for a particular number of households before Openreach will install fast BB is ludicrous when small communities sometimes have large farms and income-generating businesses. With so many aspects of farm regulation and admin now online-only it is vital that farmers have the infrastructure to do the job. I hope that the NFU will react and campaign in the strongest possible way on behalf of farmers and other rural businesses.
  • Posted by: A westonPosted on: 15/05/2016 09:46:37

    Comment: Living in a remote rural location and recognising the need for fast internet access to support our farm business we took advantage of the NFU supported satellite broadband service with Avonline in 2013. Since installation the service has been very reliable and provided reasonably fast internet access speeds. The only draw back is the cost compared to terrestrial broadband services, if the government is committed to rural broadband then the faster and more cost effective solution is to subsidise satellite broadband for those communities that can not access high speed terrestrial and mobile services. I do know of the current support system but the qualifying criteria are to prescriptive and do not favour those with potentially low speed broadband access.

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