Broadband 'a worry for farmers' header image

Published: 22nd Jun 2016

A lack of reliable broadband is a worry for many of the UK's farmers, a biodiversity farm owner has claimed. 

Charles Tasell - who runs a farm in Kent - has discussed this issue with Cable.co.uk, in light of the fact the government is pushing for services such as Common Agricultural Policy funding applications to be available online only.

He told the website he has doubts about whether the coalition's Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project will provide farmers will the necessary level of connectivity to keep up with parliament's 'digital by default' agenda.

"The problem with the BDUK rollout has always been that the last ten per cent of connections are going to cost almost as much to solve as the previous 90 per cent," Mr Tasell said.

"A high proportion of these last ten per cent are rural based residents, farms and rural businesses, so this makes the drive to more online-only applications a worry to small but significant number of rural residents," the farmer owner added.

Mr Tasell's concerns are shared by Anne McIntosh, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, who told Cable her constituency of Thirsk, Malton and Filey is affected by the issue highlighted by the farm owner.

She claimed the area will have the poorest connectivity in North Yorkshire by 2015/16, with more than a fifth (22 per cent) of rural areas having to make do with slow speeds.

The issue of broadband and farmers was discussed earlier this month, when Ms McIntosh called for the government to provide clarity on whether it would still be possible for farmers to submit paper funding applications from next year onwards or not.

Responding to these concerns, a government spokesperson told Cable the coalition is on course to have provided super-fast broadband to 95 per cent of the UK by 2017. They added that any farmers who are unable to apply for funding online will have the opportunity to get specialist assistance from digital support centres.

This may well be needed, as Ms McIntosh has claimed "intensive tuition" will be required to ensure some farmers are able to submit applications via the web.