County council helps farmer reap benefits of broadband

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Farmer Bruce Wilkinson has been able to video call his family in Australia for the first time, just one of the many advantages of the enhanced broadband which has been made available to him thanks to a Northamptonshire County Council initiative in partnership with the National Farmers Union (NFU) and Avonline Broadband.

Mr Wilkinson, who farms almost 500 acres at Glapthorn, near Oundle, under the business name KM Wilkinson and Son, is now experiencing faster broadband via satellite – and access to a wide range of online services.

Both Mr Wilkinson, who now mostly grows miscanthus, the biomass crop, and his wife Liz, who runs an agricultural training business from home, need broadband for their work.

Their broadband service had been very poor making high data internet usage such as streaming films or watching internet TV often impossible and managing business requirements online very difficult and slow.

Farmers are increasingly required to return reports to DEFRA online and for many that is a real problem so fast reliable broadband is very important.

Cllr Andre Gonzalez De Savage said: “The farming community is a key sector for Northamptonshire and through this partnership with Avonline Broadband we are able to provide an enhanced service for Mr Wilkinson and his business. This will make day to day activities such as online reporting and trading much quicker and easier.

“The information from the farmers’ survey highlights the growing importance of access to faster broadband for everyone in the county.”

As one of a number of superfast broadband demand registration surveys undertaken by the county council in 2013, members of the NFU in Northamptonshire were asked to fill out a survey to capture information on current broadband service availability, usage and demand for faster speeds. A prize winner from participants was chosen at random.

The county council received more than 100 responses to the survey, out of approximately 350 NFU members in the county. The survey results showed that 82 per cent of farmers responding experienced current broadband speeds of less than 5Mbps, with 3.8Mbps being the average.

A total of 85 per cent stated that they would definitely or be very likely to take up a superfast service if it was available, while 53 per cent thought a faster service would improve communications with their suppliers.

Whilst not recognised as Next Generation Access, satellite broadband can offer an immediate solution to get faster broadband of up to 20Mbps and it is available anywhere in the UK.

The county council will be drawing on the experience of Bruce Wilkinson and his family, through the demonstrator, to help other people in need of faster broadband to make more informed decisions on options available whilst the project to deliver fibre based superfast broadband comes forward between now and the end of 2017.

A video following Mr Wilkinson’s experience is available to view on the Superfast Northamptonshire website, including showing the satellite installation and the before and after broadband service experience.