Agriculture: Broadband

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 23rd March 2021.

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Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Conservative, Tatton

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the effect of poor broadband speeds and connectivity on the agriculture and horticulture industry.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Government has delivered superfast broadband to over five million premises, mainly in rural areas, which means that 97% of UK premises have access to superfast speeds and the UK has one of the highest rates of rural superfast coverage in Europe.

However, the Government recognises that further investment in rural broadband is needed. That is why the Government is investing an unprecedented £5 billion to further subsidise deployment of gigabit broadband in the hardest to reach 20% of the country. The majority of this funding will be deployed in rural areas, and this approach will help to directly connect farms in these areas, or bring connectivity much closer to them, opening the possibilities of other technical solutions. The £5 billion investment will prioritise deployment to premises without access to superfast broadband, where possible.

The Government also recognises more information is needed on how to reach the remotest areas and published a call for evidence on improving connectivity for very hard to reach premises on 19 March. We are exploring effective approaches to how the Government and broadband providers can deliver improved broadband connectivity to businesses in remote and very hard to reach areas of the UK, including farm businesses in these areas.

For mobile broadband coverage, the Shared Rural Network programme, launched in March 2020, will also help to improve coverage in rural areas. The Government and industry will jointly invest over £1 billion to increase 4G mobile coverage throughout the UK to 95% geographic coverage by the end of the programme.

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