NFU criticises govt rural broadband pledge header image

Published: 12th Nov 2015

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has raised concerns about the prime minister’s recent promise to get all of the UK connected to broadband with a minimum speed of ten mbps by 2020.

The organisation suggests that the Universal Service Commitment could be beneficial for farmers and rural communities, but only if it were introduced immediately, rather than in 2020.

This is because the standard speed of internet connection in urban and better-connected areas is likely to rise further by 2020, meaning that the areas still waiting for a ten mbps connection could be even further behind by the time it arrives.

Suzanne Clear, the NFU’s senior adviser for planning and rural affairs, said: “The NFU believes the government should accelerate the roll out of high speed broadband to all rural areas; this is what is happening in the rest of Europe where the target is to get at least 30 Megabits per second (Mbps) by 2020 and many areas will exceed this.”

She added: “We note with interest the proposal to consult in 2016 on an ambition to increase the Universal Service Commitment from 2 to 10 Mbps by the end of the Parliament in 2020. We are concerned that this is not enough to allow farmers and growers to compete internationally, and for rural communities to make the most of digital services. We need superfast broadband speeds by 2020 at the least if we are not to fall behind.”

Many of the areas the NFU is concerned about are not covered by the government’s existing plans to provide superfast broadband to 95 per cent of the country by the end of 2017. However, it welcomed the news that people would have a legal right to request a superfast connection, but suggested that farmers should receive compensation for any infrastructure work that impacts their business.