Farmers seek solution to superfast broadband access problems header image

Published: 11th May 2016

Most farmers are unable to access superfast broadband, despite a growing need to be able to make the most of online access, the National Farmers' Union (NFU) has stated.

The NFU said a lack of superfast broadband in rural areas means only four per cent of farmers can use it. Results of its survey of access to broadband and mobile were presented in its new report Farm Broadband & Mobile Networks.

While the government is pledging to spend £1.7 million on its Broadband Delivery Programme, the NFU has expressed concern that this will leave 1.2 million properties without superfast broadband, with most of these being in remote areas, with farms heavily affected. Those who are farming in such properties could be left to get by on speed of ten Mbps, compared with 30 Mbps in urban areas, with some populated areas getting ultrafast broadband of up to 100 Mbps.

NFU president Guy Smith said a lack of access to superfast broadband could hamper the running of farms and undermine the ambitions of the government's 25-year food and farming plan.

He said: "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."

The NFU has set out a list of proposals it believes can help ensure even the most rural places have access to superfast broadband and a good mobile network. It said the key elements would be for the government to honour the commitment it has already made to make the UK better-connected than any other country in the world and for the telecoms sector to work harder to create competition in the digital market in rural areas.