Government must make rural broadband and mobile coverage a priority, says NFU

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More than 4 in 10 farmers still don’t have adequate broadband vital to conduct their business in the 21st century, according to a new survey.

From increasing farm productivity through monitoring crops and livestock to on farm diversification, the findings of the survey show it’s almost impossible to run a modern-day business without it, while a lack of mobile phone signal can impact on issues like isolation and mental health.

NFU Vice President Stuart Roberts said: “It really is completely unacceptable that in this high-tech digital age we appear to have a two-tier system of haves and have nots.

“British farming is first and foremost a business which relies on having fast and reliable access to the internet, yet as our new survey shows more than 4 in 10 of our members feel they still don’t have adequate access to broadband services needed to run a modern-day farming business.

“And it’s not just the farming business that’s impacted. A lack of mobile signal can have potentially serious consequences if you need to call for help in an emergency while working alone, and issues of mental wellbeing from feeling isolated can also be affected without having someone to talk to on the other end of a phone.

“The current pace of broadband change and mobile connectivity in rural Britain is unacceptably too slow. The introduction of 5G and fibre broadband technology in cities means that, without action, the gap between urban and rural areas will continue to widen. That is why we are urging government and the telecommunications industry to make tackling the lack of rural connectivity a priority.

“We will continue to campaign for investment in the country’s digital infrastructure, so farming businesses and the rural economy can continue to meet their huge potential not only as food producers but in helping to tackle climate change and deliver on our net zero ambitions.”

The 2019 survey is based on 817 NFU members responding to a telephone or online survey between September 2-29, 2019 and providing their actual coverage experience. The NFU survey captures data not collected by others, for example as many farms fall within postcodes with less than four broadband lines and such geographical areas not reported on by Ofcom for data protection reasons.

Full results from the 2019 NFU broadband and digital member survey can be found here.

Britain’s food and farming sector is currently worth over £120 billion to the UK economy, supporting jobs for more than 4 million people. 



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