Lack of rural connectivity is holding UK farming back

09 May 2022

Woman trying to use an ipad in a greenhouse surrounded by plants.

The lack of action to improve rural connectivity is holding UK food production back, the NFU reports as its new Digital Technology Survey reveals that greater broadband and mobile connectivity is needed to meet the needs of modern food and farming businesses.

Respondents to the survey stressed that rural areas should have access to the same level of digital service and infrastructure as urban areas, including better speed, coverage and reliability. This reinforces the NFU’s call for government to prioritise digital connectivity in rural areas as part of its plan to level up the country.

NFU Vice President David Exwood said: “This survey makes for very disappointing reading. It shows that very little progress has been made over the past year to increase levels of broadband and mobile access in rural areas despite government promises to level up the country. This lack of digital connectivity puts a huge drain on time and efficiency as we’re effectively working with one arm tied behind our backs.

“Farming, like every other business, needs access to reliable broadband and mobile connections. They are vital to running modern day food and farming business, impacting everything from accessing data and utilising technology to communicating with suppliers and keeping workers safe on farm.

“Yet poor connectivity remains a real issue for farmers across the country at a time when they are working hard to boost efficiency and productivity in the face of rising costs. It puts farm businesses at a disadvantage, ultimately preventing us from increasing production of sustainable, affordable British food for markets both at home and abroad.

“If the government is serious about levelling up the country, it needs to ramp up efforts now to deliver better digital services to rural areas and bridge the digital divide which will in turn support rural communities to thrive.”

More information

The NFU’s Digital Technology Survey surveyed 846 NFU farmer and grower members between 9 December 2021 and 13 March 2022.

The survey showed that:

  • Only 44% of respondents said their phone signal is sufficient for the needs of their business.
  • 83% are unable to get reliable mobile signal in all outdoor locations on farm.
  • Only 38% said their broadband speed is sufficient for the needs of their business.
  • 30% have download speeds of less than 2Mbps and 49% have download speeds of less than 10Mbps, while only 24% have access to superfast download speeds of over 24Mbps.
  • 4G access remains the same as last year at 82%.