A £5bn plan to deliver mobile phone coverage to 90 per cent of the country by 2017 does not go far enough, according to rural bodies.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) represents thousands of landowners, farmers and rural businesses in the North and says the new commitment agreed by the four major mobile phone providers – O2, EE, Vodafone and Three – with Culture Secretary Sajid Javid, will leave swathes of the region without mobile phone connection.
Dorothy Fairburn, CLA North regional director, said: "It is deeply disappointing that the Government has not pushed the providers to come up with more radical solutions. We are keen to know whether this agreement ends the prospect of a national roaming network that we know is hated by the mobile phone providers, but in our view has the potential to provide choice and access in rural communities."
Miss Fairburn said the CLA would continue to campaign for affordable universal mobile coverage across rural communities.
The NFU also said that, while the agreement was a move in the right direction, it was not enough to resolve the lack of reliable mobile phone coverage that many of its members and their communities have to deal with.
It said: "Given the increasing reliance on mobile phone technology for internet use and wider farm applications, as well as phone and text communications, it is important that further initiatives are undertaken by government and the industry to get 100 per cent coverage."
Sarah Lee, head of policy at the Countryside Alliance, welcomed the fact that the government was making it easier for new masts and other infrastructure to be built and for many Government buildings to be used for mobile infrastructure.
She said: "This investment is very welcome. It will really help to ensure that rural businesses and households are not left behind in the digital revolution. However there is always room for more to be done so we expect the Government and the service providers to continue to work together to connect the final 10 per cent of the country, that has no or only partial reception."