Too Many Famers Still Stuck In Connectivity ‘slow Lane’

The coverage, reliability, and speed of mobile and internet service for many farming families and businesses are faltering, if not declining, according to the 2022 Federated Farmers Rural Connectivity Survey.

More than half of the nearly 1,200 farmers who responded to the survey report internet download speeds as being below or below the absolute minimum (20 megabytes per second/Mbps), and those who reported that Their cellphone service has declined over the past 12 months, jumping from 20% to 32%.

“For a sector that underpins the lion’s share of New Zealand’s export earnings, and where productivity gains and reporting requirements are increasingly being balanced with the use of technology, apps and devices, this is really concerning,” said Richard, Federated Farmers board member and telecommunications spokesman, McIntyre said .

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“It goes without saying that it is easier and more profitable to deliver high standards of mobile and broadband to urban areas. But rural families and farms – who can really benefit from strong online connectivity access due to remoteness and long travel times – needn’t be left with this.”

The survey showed an ongoing trend of farmers switching to wireless broadband (now 52%) and satellite services (19%) despite the cost, as old copper wiring doesn’t offer speed and reliability.

“But we saw that a larger number of farmers were noticing that the quality and reliability of their internet connections had deteriorated as the local network infrastructure was oversubscribed either by an increased number of users or by increased demand from those users,” Richard said.

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A similar problem occurs with cellular services.

“When a third of rural users say mobile connectivity has declined in the last year, it indicates serious reliability issues.”

Nearly 69 percent of respondents reported problems with dropped calls, the inability to make and receive calls, or send and receive text messages even when they have two signal bars on their cell phone.

For many, the decline in mobile services meant they could no longer rely on mobile broadband as a backup for times when their internet connection to the farm was down. For others, it may seem that nearby cell towers are no longer able to route voice calls and mobile data as they become overwhelmed with more and more people using the same towers more heavily.

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“This is an issue that Federated Farmers raised with the government following our 2020 and 2019 surveys, and we recognize that of the $60 million earmarked for rural telecoms in this year’s budget, approximately $45 million dollars are spent upgrading or adding towers,” Richard said.

“This work cannot be done too soon.”

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