UFU continuing to lobby for improved broadband

Friday, 14 August, 2020

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) is continuing to lobby on behalf of members for improved rural broadband for farming families and businesses. Throughout lockdown members have relied on broadband more than ever to stay connected, study and work.  However unfortunately in some area’s broadband connection is poor or non-existent.

UFU deputy president David Brown said, “With the industry facing continuous change and many registration and application processes moving online, having access to quality digital connectivity is paramount for our farmers and farming families. Broadband is an essential tool not only for the day-to-day running of farm businesses, but also for the entire farming family as many educational resources are online as is valuable health information. It is also crucial for rural communities as those who reside in isolated areas with poor mobile signal depend on their Wi-Fi internet connection to communicate with others. We have seen many rural households continue to be significantly disadvantaged with a very poor or non-existent broadband service, something which has been vocalised on numerous occasions by our members.”

DoE’s Project Stratum aims to improve broadband connectivity by extending Next Generation Access (NGA), broadband infrastructure is mid procurement stage, with

hopes to award contract in September 2020. This will be made available to approximately 79,000 premises across Northern Ireland that cannot yet access NGA broadband services. More information on the Project Stratum is available by visiting: https://www.economy-ni.gov.uk/topics/telecoms/project-stratum.

Whilst we wait for the rollout of Project Stratum and for those who will not be included in the scheme, the UFU are encouraging members to look into the following schemes.

Gigabit voucher scheme

The UK's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) currently run the Gigabit voucher scheme whereby eligible premises as part of a group may receive a voucher towards the installation costs of a fibre broadband service. The Gigabit voucher scheme exists because it is not always commercially viable to dig up roads and fields to supply good broadband to rural places. The UFU is encouraging members who live in a rural area and have average or poor broadband speeds, to apply for the scheme as it offers up to £1,500 for personal homes, and £3,500 for businesses, to install a new connection.

Two or more residents in a "group scheme" are needed to qualify. Groups are required to contact a broadband supplier in their area to handle the subsidy to install the new connection.

Further information can be found by visiting:  https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/ or https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-53693585.

Ofcom - The broadband universal service

Ofcom announced the introduction of the USO (Universal Service Obligation). From 20 March 2020, premises which cannot currently avail of a minimum 10Mbps broadband service can request for an upgraded connection.

Further details can be found here: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/advice-for-consumers/broadband-uso-need-to-know

The UFU also encourage members to contact their local councillors and MLA’s to keep rural broadband speed and connectivity on the agenda of politicians.