£250m broadband injection for rural areas
Rural areas will be targeted as part of the Government’s commitment to give farmers and rural businesses “full fibre” broadband connectivity, it has been announced.
It is believed that Chancellor Philip Hammond will announce later on Monday (29 October) his Budget plan to connect rural areas to “full fibre” internet with a fund of at least £250m, according to The Sunday Telegraph.
He told the paper: “For the 21st century broadband is to roads in the 20th, railways in the 19th, and canals in the 18th. It’s the network infrastructure that will make this country work.”
One of the NFU’s eight key pleas for the Budget included a need for more Government support to increase the lack of superfast broadband access in the countryside.
The farming union wrote to Mr Hammond to call for measures that ensure farmers can battle volatility as Brexit nears.
It said the Government must “ensure the roll out of superfast broadband to all farmers, growers and rural communities, alongside complete mobile phone coverage at a reasonable cost.”
The NFU has previously said rural broadband connection is “increasingly important” to farmers and those with diversified businesses.
NFU Vice President, Stuart Roberts said: “Fast rural broadband is essential for our forward-thinking and dynamic farming industry, especially as we approach exiting the European Union.”
It follows a summer 2017 survey, which highlighted how only 9% of farmers could confirm they receive broadband speeds of 24Mbps or more and only 15% had a reliable outdoor phone signal across the farm.
Other announcements have been released ahead of Mr Hammond’s speech at 15:30 GMT, including:
• An increase in spending on mental health services in England by at least £2bn a year
• £900m in business rates relief for small businesses
• £60m on planting trees in England
• Freeze in fuel duty
Monday’s Budget will be the final government spending plan announcement before the UK officially leaves the EU in March 2019.