December 9 2013 Latest news:
Monday, October 14, 2013
The readers of the EDP have made their voices heard on mobile phone coverage in Norfolk, with hundreds backing the paper’s Lets Get Connected campaign for a better mobile and broadband signal.
A director of a rural lobby group has backed the EDP’s campaign. Nicola Currie, eastern regional director of the Country Land and Business Association, which represents rural landowners and business, backed the initiative following a report in a national newspaper that claimed people dubbed “digital refugees” were now moving from the countryside to towns and cities in search of faster internet speeds.
She said an agent who helps customers buy homes worth more than £1m was advising all of his clients against looking at properties that have slow internet speeds.
Mrs Currie said: “For more than 10 years, the CLA has been campaigning on the need for comprehensive, affordable and effective broadband throughout the countryside. And, yet, many rural areas are still in the technological Dark Ages. The economic health of rural communities and their businesses is being damaged by exasperatingly slow broadband that leaves them unable to compete. Broadband is as vital as water, electricity and gas and should be looked on as the fourth utility.”
Mrs Currie said the CLA backed the campaign and the county council’s BDUK-funded broadband rollout project, but was very concerned that despite this significant funding many rural areas were still going to be left without workable broadband after 2015.
The appeal has only been running for three weeks, but has already attracted 217 hard copy responses from Norfolk residents unhappy at the coverage provided by telecoms companies.
Villagers in Hillington will be among the first across the region to benefit from cheaper broadband, landline, TV and mobile services as telecoms provider TalkTalk installs its own equipment in 41 telephone exchanges.
The company claims up 65,000 homes across the region will benefit from its £1,85m investment.
Before the upgrade, broadband and telecoms providers were only able to offer services by renting equipment from BT, which meant the cost of landline and broadband services was much higher.
TalkTalk said it could now pass on the cost savings to households in East Anglia and offer their lowest-priced phone, broadband and television packages.
Readers have flooded our Norwich office with coupons to back the campaign and hundreds more have provided responses online, providing ratings of their service for an interactive map of the county.
And the campaign has come to the attention of Norfolk’s MPs, including Norwich North’s Chloe Smith and North Norfolk’s Norman Lamb. Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman is also supporting the campaign.
Many residents have also spoken about the effects the poor signal has had on their everyday lives, including Chris Green, secretary at Wroxham Football Club, who said he found it difficult to get a signal at the club’s Skinners Lane ground when he had to provide live score updates.
He said a number of clubs had phone masts attached to floodlights and his club wanted the same at its ground, which is leased, but had met objections from the landowner.
“People going round our football ground can get a basic signal in 2G, but when it comes to 3G it is useless. In the whole of the south of England, we are the only club that has major problems in complying with the requirement to update the service,” Mr Green added.
His views about the situation in Wroxham were echoed by the town’s parish council, which agreed at a meeting on September 19 to support the EDP’s “long-awaited campaign.”
Council clerk Daphne Wyatt said: “Coverage in Wroxham and the surrounding parishes is diabolical and to think that we are letting the rest of the world run rings round us, when we should have the best technology that there is, is beyond belief. Are we all living in a dream world or is there something wrong out there?”
On Thursday, Mr Lamb met Vodafone bosses to discuss the situation and was given assurances the technology in the north Norfolk area was being made more resilient following service blackouts. He discussed the ongoing problems, particularly around Sheringham, with two Vodafone executives.
“I stressed to them that these sort of problems were frustrating for customers and incredibly damaging to the reputation of Vodafone in terms of the public’s confidence in the network.”
There have been problems with Vodafone service in Sheringham since October last year when the Vodafone mast on the old fire station was removed for the new Tesco supermarket on Cromer Road. It was replaced further down Cromer Road. Recent problems last month were caused after faulty air conditioning at the West Runton mast.
Many residents have also written in to express their concern at the quality of the signal in their areas.
Robin Page, of St Peter’s Road, Sheringham said there had been no signal from one supplier for seven days. He added: “I have been in touch and they know there’s a problem, but don’t know when it will be fixed.”
Edwin Winter, of Darrow Green, Denton, said: “Thank you so much for this campaign. We rural dwellers seem to be completely neglected with these modern technology services, no mobile service and atrocious broadband on which we are more and more dependent with banking, HMRC tax affairs and general business use.”
Jane Scarfe, of Abacus Television in Great Melton Road, Little Melton, said: “In our home office, barely five miles out of the city, it is a lottery every time we pick up our smartphones whether we are going to have a signal or not.
“Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t. Even when they do there is barely one bar showing and it might well drop out mid conversation.”
And Debbie De Spon, of The Street, Ashwellthorpe, said: “Frequently in the middle of a conversation the signal fades and the person at the other end can’t hear me although I can hear them and then the call is cut off.”