Only 15% get dependable mobile phone signal on farm

Just one in six farmers have access to a reliable mobile phone network, reveals a survey.

Conducted during the summer by the NFU, the survey attracted more than 800 responses from union members – both online and over the phone.

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Just 15% of respondents had access to a reliable mobile network across their farm – even though 92% of members surveyed said a mobile signal was important to their business.

The survey results are concerning because a good mobile phone signal is seen as a lifesaver in the event of an accident in rural areas where farmers often work alone.

The NFU’s findings are being published in the November 2015 issue of the union’s British Farmer & Grower magazine.

Only 25% of smartphone owners said they had access to 4G connections, with 70% of respondents saying the technology was unavailable in their area.

Some 4% of members reported having no internet access either via a mobile or broadband connection, with just 8% having access to superfast broadband (24Mbps).

NFU senior rural affairs adviser Suzanne Clear said the delivery of superfast broadband was “too slow to come out to those who need it” on farm.

“The NFU has been asking for an accelerated rollout of high-speed broadband to provide [the] universal coverage seen in urban areas,” she said.

“We are not asking for special treatment, just the same coverage that everyone else can get.”

Of those surveyed, 86% said broadband was essential to their business, with 63% saying the broadband speed their received was not good enough.

Among farmers with broadband, 58% had download speeds of 2Mbps or less – only just or below basic provision – with 80% having upload speeds of 2Mbps or less.

Earlier this summer, culture minister Ed Vaizey accused his parliamentary colleagues of moaning unnecessarily about the lack of progress when it came to rolling out superfast broadband.

“I must confess that too often in these debates I hear from many colleagues one long whinge about the superfast broadband programme,” he told MPs on 13 July.

“That is difficult for me to take, because I know that it has been an absolutely stunning success.”

But the NFU survey results paint a different picture.

The next step in the NFU’s survey work is to highlight how lack of access to broadband and mobile phone technology is impacting on farm.

Ms Clear said: “We don’t see this as whinging – more about explaining what our members could be doing if they had better access to technology.”

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