A new survey from the NFU has suggested that the lack of action to improve rural connectivity is holding UK food production back. The Digital Technology Survey reveals that greater broadband and mobile connectivity is needed to meet the needs of modern farming businesses.
The survey was filled in by 846 members between the 9th of December 2021 and the 13th of March 2022. Just 44% said that their phone signal is sufficient for the needs of their business, while 83% are unable to get a reliable signal in all outdoor locations on farm. Access to 4G networks remained the same as last year at 82%.
For broadband users, just 38% said that their internet speed was adequate for the needs of their business, with 30% having download speeds of less than 2Mbps, and 49% less than 10Mbps. 30% currently have access to superfast download speeds above 24Mbps.
Respondents stressed that rural areas should have access to the same level of digital services and infrastructure as urban areas, including better speeds, coverage and reliability. This reinforces the NFU’s call for the government to prioritise digital connectivity in its plan to level up the country.
NFU vice president David Exwood said: “This survey makes for very disappointing reading. It shows that very little progress has been made over the past year to increase levels of broadband and mobile access in rural areas despite government promises to level up the country. This lack of digital connectivity puts a huge drain on time and efficiency as we’re effectively working with one arm tied behind our backs.
“Farming, like every other business, needs access to reliable broadband and mobile connections. They are vital to running modern day food and farming business, impacting everything from accessing data and utilising technology to communicating with suppliers and keeping workers safe on farm.
“Yet poor connectivity remains a real issue for farmers across the country at a time when they are working hard to boost efficiency and productivity in the face of rising costs. It puts farm businesses at a disadvantage, ultimately preventing us from increasing the production of sustainable, affordable British food for markets both at home and abroad.
“If the government is serious about levelling up the country, it needs to ramp up efforts now to deliver better digital services to rural areas and bridge the digital divide which will in turn support rural communities to thrive.”