The House of Commons Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee has launched a major inquiry into broadband provision in rural areas as more public services become digital by default.
From January 2015, all applications for the new CAP Single Payment Scheme will have to be made online, and the Rural Payments Agency has committed to providing additional support for customers who can’t access the internet, those who feel they lack the appropriate skills, and those who do not even own a computer.
Because of this migration to only allowing online submissions, concern has grown that many farmers in parts of the UK who do not yet have access to high speed broadband will be left out.
The inquiry, which is open to submissions until 19 November 2014, will examine how the BDUK scheme – managed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport – is due to meet the government’s universal access commitment in providing superfast broadband to 95% of UK premises by 2017.
The committee has invited written evidence on the extent of broadband availability in the hardest-to-reach areas, digital access and experience of digital-only services – such as CAP applications – and what kind of support is being made available to those required to use such services.