Supporting our rural economy

Two out of every three farmers who use the internet say they would benefit from the roll-out of ultrafast mobile broadband (4G) according to research conducted by the National Farmers Union.

The findings are taken from the results of the 2012 NFU communications survey. NFU chief rural affairs adviser David Collier said that it was clear that farmers have high expectations of 4G mobile broadband.

“Farmers expect multiple benefits from 4G mobile broadband,” said Mr Collier.

“They expect to be able to use the internet more and use it more effectively – and make better use of time away from the farm office. From doing business with their customers or seeking out new suppliers to doing administrative work such as banking, invoicing or completing online forms, the internet has become a vital component of rural life.”

“Those in areas where the current landline connection is painfully slow are looking forward to using the internet much more easily and effectively than before.”

David Collier added that the NFU had supported a campaign last year to bring forward the auctions for 4G mobile broadband, and was pleased that one of the licenses will require that it be taken to 98% of UK premises by 2017 – and that according to the Treasury this is likely to be achieved by 2015.

“However”, he said, “we need to bear in mind that 2% of the UK population amounts to more than one million people, and there are no prizes for guessing where those people live and work. The closer we get to 100% 4G coverage, and the sooner we reach universal coverage, the happier we will be. That means keeping up the pressure to ensure that the next 4G auction – which can only happen when spectrum is freed up by moving some existing users – is held as soon as possible.”

This is a pressing topic for our NFU members, and here I’d like to share some of the recent comments they have shared with me in response to how they expect 4G to help their business:

• Farmhouse bed and breakfast managers who recognise that the faster speed and access to data in the volumes they need will help them manage bookings

• A rural business that uses the internet for marketing describes how 4G will benefit them by getting quicker access to information. The current coverage often breaks down or doesn’t work and this can be very disruptive to smaller businesses.

• A member who uses their phone for internet, email etc., and is excited about how 4G will help them manage their business on the move. They can benefit from the speed and won’t waste time from trying to connect. Will also be able to do more things on the go.

Ultrafast 4G will provide a unique opportunity not only to support existing businesses and farmers but also provide the foundation for a new generation of local British businesses.

To read more on the “The role of 4G in ‘the age of me’” then download the latest Perspective series report click here