Government must make rural broadband and mobile coverage a priority, says NFU

More than 4 in 10 farmers still don’t have adequate broadband vital to conduct their business in the 21st century, according to a new survey.

From increasing farm productivity through monitoring crops and livestock to on-farm diversification, the findings of the survey show it’s almost impossible to run a modern-day business without it, while a lack of mobile phone signal can impact on issues like isolation and mental health.

NFU vice-president Stuart Roberts said: “It really is completely unacceptable that in this high-tech digital age we appear to have a two-tier system of haves and have nots.

British farming is first and foremost a business which relies on having fast and reliable access to the internet, yet, as our new survey shows, more than 4 in 10 of our members feel they still don’t have adequate access to broadband services needed to run a modern-day farming business.

“And it’s not just the business that’s impacted. A lack of mobile signal can have potentially serious consequences if you need to call for help in an emergency while working alone, and issues of mental wellbeing from feeling isolated can also be affected without having someone to talk to on the other end of a phone.

‘A widening gap’

“The current pace of broadband change and mobile connectivity in rural Britain is unacceptably too slow. 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.

“That is why we are urging the Government and the telecommunications industry to make tackling the lack of rural connectivity a priority.

“We will continue to campaign for investment in the country’s digital infrastructure, so farming businesses and the rural economy can continue to meet their huge potential, not only as food producers, but in helping to tackle climate change and deliver on our net-zero ambitions.”