New inquiry into rural broadband header image

A new government inquiry is to look into rural broadband in the UK.

It has been revealed the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee will look into the state of connectivity in the countryside, as well as the impact the introduction of 'digital-only services' will have on communities. 

The latter is a particularly controversial issue, as it means farmers will soon only be able to apply for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding online. This is despite many lacking the level of connectivity required to do so. 

Rural broadband stakeholders have welcomed the news. A spokeswoman for Action with Communities in Rural England told "We very much welcome the inquiry and it is very timely with the expectation that the farming community will make all CAP payments online next year."

Dr Charles Trotman, senior business and economics adviser at the CLA, said he is pleased the advantages better broadband would bring to the countryside are being recognised.

"Now is the time for the Select Committee to focus on the need for effective universality of broadband provision so that all can benefit," he stated.

Sarah Lee, head of policy for the Countryside Alliance, told Cable close to one in five of the UK's farmers do not currently have the level of broadband service needed to apply for CAP funding over the internet.

She is not the first to criticise the government's plans, which will make the application process online-only from next year onwards.

Anne McIntosh, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, expressed concerns about the change in July and the policy has received a poor reception in general.

The subject of rural broadband as a whole remains highly controversial, with the government's rollout of super-fast services regularly a target for criticism.

Satellite broadband has been recognised by the coalition as one of the ideal technologies to improve connectivity in hard-to-reach areas.