Rural broadband services 'not progressing', NFU warns

Rural broadband services 'not progressing', NFU warns

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A new survey has revealed that many rural parts of the UK are still not able to receive high-speed broadband, suggesting efforts to close the gap with urban areas are not progressing quickly enough.

The research, conducted by the National Farmers Union (NFU), found four out of ten members of the organisation still don't have adequate broadband to allow them to conduct business, while mobile phone coverage in the countryside also remains poor in many places.

Although 90 per cent of respondents agreed that good broadband is essential for their business, only one in three (36 per cent) feel their current service is sufficient to meet their needs, while more than a quarter (26 per cent) stated poor broadband is a barrier to further use of digital tools.

Overall, just 17 per cent of farmers have access to superfast speeds of at least 24Mbps, though this is up from just four per cent in 2015. Meanwhile, 30 per cent still have download speeds of 2Mbps or less, compared with 58 per cent in 2019.

Vice-president of the NFU Stuart Roberts said it is "completely unacceptable that in this high-tech digital age we appear to have a two-tier system of haves and have nots".

He added that the current pace of progress in improving broadband and mobile services in rural parts of the UK is still far too slow and will lead to rural communities falling even further behind.

"The introduction of 5G and fibre broadband technology in cities means that, without action, the gap between urban and rural areas will continue to widen," Mr Roberts continued. "That is why we are urging government and the telecommunications industry to make tackling the lack of rural connectivity a priority."

The NFU highlighted pledges made in the Conservative government's pre-election manifesto to bring full fibre and gigabit-capable broadband to every home and business in the UK by 2025.

It also noted it is not just farmers who will suffer if these poor broadband provisions are not improved, stating that it is almost impossible to run any modern business without this technology, while the lack of broadband and mobile connectivity can also increase isolation among rural residents and workers.

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