Under its Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme, the UK government is aiming to offer speeds of at least 2Mbps to 95% of the country by 2017 and the Rural Broadband Programme falls under this scheme.
The Parliamentary Committee is concerned because from January 2014, all applications for the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) schemes must be made online.
As farmers requiring this service often live in rural areas and studies have shown these parts of country lack strong coverage, the group of MPs wants to examine the situation.
The Rural Payments Agency claims to have committed to providing “a range of additional support” for those who can’t get online, don’t have access to a computer or don’t have the necessary skills to use one.
The Committee’s inquiry will investigate current broadband coverage in rural areas, the new digital-only services and “Assisted Digital” support available.
It is inviting people to come forward with written evidence on the extend of broadband coverage in the hardest to reach rural areas, digital access and experience of digital-only programmes including the new CAP systems and support available for those who need to use these services.
News of the inquiry has been welcomed by various groups, including the Countryside Alliance, an organisation campaigning for the rights of rural Britain.
“The farming industry has been working closely with the government and the Rural Payments Agency to ensure no-one is left behind,” claimed the group’s policy head Sarah Lee.
“We would like assurance from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) that these 20,000 farmers [with no Internet access] will not be penalised for a lack of digital connectivity is they fail to apply for their Basic Payment Scheme by Mat 2015,” she added.