Urgent action is being called for on broadband speed and mobile coverge in rural areas.

Four out of five households do not receive 4G mobile coverage from all the big four mobile providers in 14 rural local authority areas in England and only nine per cent of farmers surveyed could confirm they receive broadband speeds of 24Mbps or more on the farm.

As of the end of 2017, there are no legal targets in place to ensure the mobile network operators invest in improvements. The CLA, which represents 30,000 landowners, farmers and rural businesses in England and Wales, has asked Ofcom to force reluctant mobile network operators to improve coverage in rural areas by imposing a legally binding coverage target on their operating licences. It is calling for EE, O2, Vodafone and Three to be required to deliver 4G coverage to 95% of the UK geographic landmass on all networks by 2022.

Analysis of Ofcom data conducted by the CLA shows that while 4G can currently be accessed on all host networks across 58% of the UK, rural areas are served the worst. Worse affected areas in the south west region are North Devon which has 19.11% indoor 4G coverage, Mid-Devon with 14.25% and North Dorset just 14.24% coverage.

CLA President Tim Breitmeyer said: “These figures lay bare the extent to which those living and working in rural areas are cast out into the digital wilderness. It also poses serious questions about what commitment, if any, the mobile operators have to delivering coverage in rural areas.

“People living and working in rural areas are missing out on the opportunities that we take for granted in towns and cities to improve the productivity of their businesses, to attract new businesses into their communities, to make emergency calls, and to have the same instant access to social and educational resources. This inequality is simply not good enough.

“For years the mobile companies have promised to improve rural coverage. They have extracted public money, sweeping changes in the law and a range of other concessions on the back of these promises. They are not being held to account when they don’t deliver. It is time to impose a legally binding target to cover 95% of the UK with 4G by 2022.”

Meanwhile the NFU has called for the government to ensure every farming business can access next generation superfast broadband and complete mobile technology across the farm.

The NFU has also asked government to allow the full delivery of the Government’s agri-tech and Industrial Strategies and lay the foundations for fifth generation (5G) technology.

In a response to the consultation on the future of telecoms infrastructure, the NFU has used evidence from its unique member survey to highlight the growing rural-urban divide.

In summer 2017 only nine per cent of farmers surveyed could confirm they receive broadband speeds of 24Mbps or more and only 15 per cent had a reliable outdoor phone signal across the farm.

NFU vice president Guy Smith said: “It’s very frustrating for farmers who waste time everyday due to poor connections and cannot take advantage of on-farm technology. One member spent two and half hours trying to set up a banking service, thwarted by a broadband service that kept dropping out. Another explained how it was not possible to gain real time information from contractors and agronomists. A third could not contact their vet and a fourth explained wider rural services, such as their holiday and business letting services had been impacted as visitors did not want to come to an unconnected countryside. In addition, many NFU members had health and safety concerns."