Farmers are to provide tractor-powered Wi-Fi in parts of Yorkshire to compensate for poor rural connectivity
Spectators at the first two stages of this years’ Tour de France in Yorkshire are set to benefit from free Wi-Fi from an unlikely source – tractors equipped with access points by farmers who say they are familiar with the challenges of connecting to the Internet in rural areas.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) has teamed up with tractor manufacturer Massey Ferguson and satellite broadband firm Avonline to create two Wi-Fi tractors that provide Wi-Fi connectivity to anyone within a 500 metre radius.
“We are really excited about this project and we hope it will add to people’s enjoyment of what will be an amazing event,” says NFU regional director Richard Pearson. “But as our members know only too well, getting internet access can be a tricky business out in the countryside – it’s something they grapple with every day whether they’re registering online animal movements or simply engaging with the public on Twitter or Facebook.
With the Glastonbury Festival announcing Wi-Fi access points built into a herd of fibreglass cows, it seems that agriculture-themed Wi-Fi is a trending idea in Britain this summer.
Tour de France Wi-Fi
“It’s obvious spectators will want to use their phones to access visitor information and post pictures, tweets and so on. As we understand how frustrating a lack of broadband in rural areas can be, we wondered if this was something we could help with.”
The two vehicles will be placed at four of the busiest areas on the route. During stage one, one tractor will be located at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Visitor centre in Hawes, where 5,000 people are expected, and another will be placed at the visitor centre in Grassington where National Park staff anticipate 3,000 people will attend.
Overnight these will be moved to the Steel Stage event at High Bradfield and Holme Village at the foot of the Holme Moss climb.
“These tractors will be a great asset to our spectator hubs,” says Tracey Lambert, recreation and tourism manager with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. “They provide a much needed service for our visitors in a quirky and interesting way, highlighting the part that farming plays in managing our beautiful landscape.”
After the Tour’s flirtation with Yorkshire is complete, it will head south for stage three, which finishes on the Mall in London and starts in Cambridge, where spectators are set to benefit from a city-wide Wi-Fi network.
BT has won all of the public funding to improve rural broadband in Yorkshire as part of the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) initiative, however progress was halted in one part of North Yorkshire following the discovery of badger setts.