Farmers: We need broadband for business

Broadband is a vital tool for Australia's farmers, new research has found.

Broadband is a vital tool for Australia's farmers, new research has found -- with Web uptake amongst the farming community almost as high as the national average.

Broadband helps farmers deal with banks more efficiently, provides farms with a competitive advantage, streamlines selling and allows farmers to access weather updates and news, according to a report by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Nearly all farmers with an Internet connection use it for business needs in addition to their personal needs, with only five percent having an Internet connection for personal use only, according to the survey of 2000 farmers across major agronomic areas.

Seventy-four percent of farmers surveyed had an Internet connection, according to the survey, versus 77 percent for general household residents with a landline.

However, Australia's farmers tend towards slower connections with 35 percent of farmers having broadband, overshadowed by 39 percent of farmers on dial-up.

Of the farmers with a non-broadband connection, over 80 percent said they would prefer a high-speed connection. The reason reported by 65 percent of them for not having the service was that it was not available in the area, while 16 percent thought it was too expensive.

Satellite broadband was the most popular carrier technology -- 49 percent -- with ADSL in second place at 22 percent, followed by cable (16 percent) and wireless (six percent).

The average monthly cost recorded by the survey for satellite was AU$59, for ADSL AU$37, cable AU$36 and wireless AU$33.

Internet connection aside, farmers are almost as well connected with landline and mobile services as non farm respondents, but still lower than SMEs according to the ACMA. All farmers surveyed had a landline, while 85 percent used a mobile in comparison to 87 percent of non farm respondents and 93 percent of SMEs.

"Farmers have a greater reliance on communications tools for business purposes" than non farm respondents, the report says, with nearly half of all farmers surveyed using their mobile for business as well as personal purposes.

The mobile phone has, however, not always proved a reliable communication device for farmers, with 47 percent saying that their work had taken them out of their mobile coverage area. Only 12 percent of non farm respondents had encountered no service while on work duties.