National Farmers’ Union launches rural broadband and mobile survey

Rural businesses struggle with a lack of fast broadband coverage.

Rural businesses struggle with a lack of fast broadband coverage. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press � 2011

Farmers are being encouraged to record their experiences of broadband and mobile coverage in order to help influence policy-makers to speed up improvements.

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) launched its five-week survey today, aiming to illustrate the extent and impact of digital connectivity issues across the agricultural industry.

With many rural businesses in East Anglia still suffering from slow internet speeds and patchy mobile coverage, NFU vice president Guy Smith said the size of the union's 46,000-strong membership meant it could present 'credible evidence' to government ministers and the digital industry.

'The NFU is calling on the government to make the digital economy universal, so that every farming business can access superfast broadband, at speeds they can afford, with coverage across all of their farms,' he said.

'We do not believe that the government is doing enough for farmers and rural communities to get connected. Our members need a plan in place to accelerate the delivery of rural services and lay the foundations for 5G services – especially as the government's proposed broadband Universal Service Obligation of 10Mbps (megabits per second), and BT's equivalent offer for 1.4 million rural premises is far lower in speed than urban broadband users receive now.

'The NFU is uniquely placed, with its 46,000 members and in-house survey team, to present credible evidence about everyday issues facing farmers directly to government and the digital industry. I would encourage as many members as possible to complete this broadband and mobile survey and get their voices heard.'

This is the NFU's third annual research exercise on this subject, after more than 800 members were surveyed in 2015 and 2016.

According to the Spotlight on Farm Broadband and Mobile Networks report published in July, only 6pc of NFU members said they had superfast broadband of 24Mbps or above in 2016, and 15pc had a mobile service across the farm.

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'Our surveys have shown that only 15pc of farmers have mobile coverage across the farm in 2016, so it is well past time for the government to take action to bring rural areas up to scratch,' said Mr Smith.

'It is also troubling to us that 4G coverage is being rolled out at a slower rate to rural areas and voice coverage is falling out. This is putting farmers and growers at a disadvantage when they are trying to run innovative, profitable and sustainable businesses.'