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NFU wants farmers' views on broadband and mobile coverage

Wednesday, July 29th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Farmers' views on broadband and mobile coverage are being canvassed in a new survey hoped to get better service for rural areas.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has launched the farmer-focused broadband and mobile phone survey in a bid to help build understanding of the farming sector’s needs.

The survey will be used to help the NFU in its work to make sure fast, reliable and affordable mobile and broadband coverage reaches its members.

It will also help the organisation contribute to Ofcom’s Strategic Review of Digital Communications.

NFU vice president Guy Smith said: “This is a hugely important survey, our member experience will prove invaluable for identifying both the barriers and technological solutions for the delivery of fast, reliable and affordable mobile phone signals and broadband on-farm.

“Survey results will be used to promote our work towards ensuring we can see the delivery of fast, reliable and affordable mobile phone signals and broadband for our members.

“For example, it will help us to contribute towards Ofcom’s Strategic Review of Digital Communications and help our wider work on planning issues and towards our discussions with the wider digital industries on the value of the farming market."

Mr Smith said farmers and growers are increasingly using digital technologies to farm more efficiently, use government services and to enjoy family life.

'A barrier to efficient farming'

“Yet where there is no broadband coverage, or no signal for mobile phone voice or text, this can create a real barrier to efficient farming – not to mention the health and safety implications if you cannot reach emergency services – which we need to address sooner rather than later,” he added.

NFU researchers will be calling members over the next three weeks to ask for their views, as well as questions on reception, what technology is used and how it is used on farms.

The survey also aims to find out exactly what broadband speeds farmers and growers have.

Farming and rural organisations have previously hit out at slow broadband speeds and a lack of mobile coverage that leaves farmers and businesses at a disadvantage.

Earlier this year, NFU president Meurig Raymond welcomed the government’s proposed rollout of 100Mbps across the UK, but warned the government not to forgot the rural communities who may only get a basic legal entitlement of 5Mbps and subsidised satellite services.

The Country Landowners Association (CLA), which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses, has previously called for minimum fixed broadband speeds of at least 10Mbps, and a drive to help the final 5% of rural areas get online.

Giving evidence to a House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee inquiry, its president Henry Robinson and senior business and economics advisor Dr Charles Trotman told MPs that rural areas were being disadvantaged by a lack of connectivity.

They said the committee should recommend a Universal Service Obligation including fixed-line broadband speeds of at least 10Mbps.

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