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Farmers Criticise Government’s Rural Quick Fix of Satellite Broadband

Thursday, December 24th, 2015 (1:13 pm) - Score 1,005
uk farmer john and dog george

The National Farmers Union (NFU), which supports around 55,000 members across the United Kingdom, has criticised the Government’s new Satellite broadband subsidy scheme. The organisation warns that the solution “does not work that well for everyone” and might struggle to meet its targets.

The subsidy, which officially launched earlier this month (here) and is being made available to 300,000 of the most remote rural premises, is largely a way for the Government to meet their original Universal Service Commitment (USC); this promised that everybody in the UK would have access to a minimum broadband download speed of at least 2Mbps.

The subsidy itself, which is being administered by local authorities (i.e. supplied to eligible homes and businesses upon request), does not have a specific fixed value but can be used to reduce the total cost (i.e. installation and commissioning costs plus up to 12 monthly subscriptions) by around £350.

However Satellite is a far from perfect service (here) and not everybody is happy with the decision to use it.

Guy Smith, NFU Vice President, said:

We have been doing extensive work with our members to find out how the lack of mobile and broadband services affects their businesses.

And, although we welcome the announcement to roll out subsidised satellite broadband vouchers to help some 300,000 of the most remote homes and businesses to access at least 2 Mbit/s of broadband connectivity, we are not convinced it will be able to meet its targets, especially given the number of people who will be excluded if they cannot meet the strict criteria.

We also know satellite does not work that well for everyone.

We understand the Welsh Government has just announced a far more generous voucher scheme, which is easier to qualify for, and which allows access to a number of broadband technologies.

The recent failure at the launch of the Basic Payment Scheme, which was originally only available online, also highlighted that 2 Mbit/s as a minimum speed is outdated and that significant investment in rural broadband is needed. A reliable mobile phone signal and broadband connection across farm can lead to significant efficiency gains as well as improving health and safety and offer better access to information and services.”

It’s worth pointing out that the Satellite services being offered do actually deliver considerably faster top speeds than 2Mbps, rising up to 30Mbps in some cases, although actual performance will vary depending upon how heavily congested the network is and the service you’re using.

Meanwhile the wait goes on for the Government to announce a proper investment strategy for bringing better quality superfast broadband to the final 3-4% of premises after 2017/18. Separately the NFU also offers its own discounted satellite package for farmer and grower members, which they can access via telephone as well as online. For more information about the scheme, please dial CallFirst on 0370 845 8458 or visit NFU online, here.

Leave a Comment
16 Responses
  1. Avatar FibreFred

    So what can’t farmers do with satellite?

    • Avatar PeterM

      Farming is no different to any other business. If farmers want to use cloud computing, satellite is clearly useless due to the latency and pathetic upload speeds.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      But the use of cloud services is not essential

    • Avatar PeterM

      That is true, but to be honest would you like to just have to rely on satellite or very slow ADSL. Unlike others we cannot simply move we have to put up with what we can get.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      After being on sub 2Mbps ADSL for years no I would never want to go back, but as a business if I had chance to upgrade to something better (which must be the case for a lot of people) pretty much instantly and subsidised well you’d be crazy not to consider it especially if there’s next to no chance of anything else any time soon

    • Avatar gerarda

      The service being offered by the voucher is a capped 10Gig service with, according to Thinkbroadband, an average upload speed of 0.1Mbps. At that speed many applications time out, even if they don’t come as so many do now (Microsoft Office for example) with cloud computing by default.

      The take up in the trial in Cornwall was 25, which sums it up really.

    • Avatar PeterM

      For simply browsing the net I reckon that between 1 and 2 on ADSL is better than satellite.
      The Think Broadband satellite upload figures, by the way, are the most up to date this autumn – 0.1Mbps was the lowest and 0.2Mbps was the highest – WOW!

  2. My guess is the sheep are moaning cus they keep losing at first shooters! 🙂

  3. Avatar Phil Coates

    Well stream movies, Skype their kids in other countries, watch catchup TV, play online games. The list is quite long and I am not a farmer – just a Satellite Broadband user.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      No I’m talking about a farming business, I understand the recreational limitations I’m trying to understand what the business limitations are, farming being a business and all.

  4. Avatar PeterM

    With more than 300 local offices in rural towns and villages in the UK and an unlimited number of sites for transmitting equipment in farms throughout the UK, the NFU would be ideally placed to launch its own Fixed Wireless broadband service for its members and other rural communities.
    It could team up with a tech company or companies to provide this service to its members as a service and a commercial venture.

  5. Avatar Andrew

    Did a job for a customer on Satellite. Bloody aweful frankly.
    Speed ( once it got wound up) was 25 med down. Upload was crapaty crap.
    Latency was terrible. my 2 meg ADSL felt way faster browsing.
    Went to install Sage on Windows 10.
    Sage needed a Dot net framework so attempted to download it from Microsoft.
    It stalled. 4 times. I got mad, took the whole PC home, downloaded it no problem and took it back.
    Bloody crap. No one should have to use it.

    • Avatar Pete Woods

      This mirrors my experience. A lot of websites just dont work because once you get chained http requests for HTML, then CSS and JavaScript, then a bunch of Ajax calls, things start timing out. I couldn’t view my pension, check my internet banking, use VoIP / video calling. Cloning a bit/bzr repo, updating a Linux server all took insane amounts of time, because the software’s all been tuned to assume a latency of < 100ms, not around 2s. Using a bit of Netflix blows the paltry cap, then you're throttled to 100Kb/s. 2 Mb ADSL is a vastly superior experience. I ended up with 20/5 Mb fixed WiFi (boundless comms) which was fantastic, and 1/3 the price.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @Pete Woods: Take as an example this ISPReview page. Loading it takes at least 65 HTTP GET requests sent to ispreview.co.uk, platform.linkedin.com, apis.google.com, assets.pinterest.com, reddit.com, platform.stumbleupon.com, google-analytics.com, diigo.com, gravatar.com, badgle.stumbleupon.com, connect.facebook.net, etc, to name just a few. Many of the resources requested from these remote servers, e.g. images, and some JS, are only loaded sequentially. I can easily imagine how a satellite-based connection with its high latencies can become quickly useless.

    • Avatar PeterM

      OFCOM have asked all Fixed Line Broadband suppliers to sign up to their code of practice for broadband speeds.

      Looking at the OFCOM website I could find no such requirement for satellite broadband providers.

      In view of the fact that consumers are now being offered satellite as an alternative option to fixed line broadband by BDUK should not the satellite providers that are offering the BDUK service also be asked to sign this code of practice?

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