A new report that criticises the focus on speed targets at the heart of government policy on broadband â€˜makes senseâ€™ said the NFU today.
The House of Lords Communications Committee report, â€œBroadband for all – an alternative visionâ€, is also critical of the Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF) operated by Defra to support community efforts in rural areas, citing difficulties over eligibility and uncertainty over funding.
The NFU is keen to ensure that any Rural Development Programme for England grant scheme is designed carefully to meet its objectives and provides maximum benefit and value for money.
NFU chief rural affairs adviser David Collier said: â€œThis report makes sense and chimes in with what the NFU has been saying about priorities for rural broadband: the starting point should be the speeds required by rural businesses and then the task is to find a way of getting those speeds to all.
â€œWe think it is more important to get all rural businesses on to â€˜reasonably fastâ€™ broadband of about 10 megabytes per second than to get a small number in rural areas on to â€˜superfastâ€™ broadband â€“ normally defined as 24Mbps or faster â€“ leaving the remainder on pitifully low speeds.
â€œDefra needs to consider whether the RCBF is going to make a real impact in remoter rural areas, and if necessary go back to the drawing board. As the report says, the danger is that the digital divide gets wider rather than narrower, with rural businesses increasingly left behind.â€