More calls to bring region’s phone signal up to speed after man with profound deafness left ‘vulnerable and isolated’ by broken down car

Mobile phone masts on the water tower on Norwich Road, North Walsham.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Mobile phone masts on the water tower on Norwich Road, North Walsham.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A deaf man who said he was left 'vulnerable and isolated' when his car broke down has called for more to be done to bring the region's mobile phone signal up to speed.

Describing himself as 'confident and capable', Steve Hurley says he does not let his profound deafness limit him.

But last week, he was left 'vulnerable and isolated' when his car broke down on the busy A140, in between Diss and Scole, as he drove to work in Norwich.

It comes after we revealed the results of a survey of 1,300 readers, who told us just how badly poor connection was affecting them.

When Mr Hurley, 43, found himself with a broken car on his hands, he texted his family and friends and a number given to him by his breakdown cover provider for hard of hearing customers.

He waited – and waited.

At the time, he said, rush hour was in 'full, blurry swing', with commuters and lorries barrelling past his car. 'Standing shiftily on the roadside it occurred to me that no one at all had replied to my brief messages, not even that friend who always has her phone in her hand,' he said.

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Confused, he checked his phone once more – and spotted that he was without signal.

Desperate to make contact, Mr Hurley, from Norwich, tried to find a connection, to no avail. Finally, after much pacing up and down, one bar appeared.

A three-way call between him, his interpreter and a call operator – which had to be repeated twice – followed, and saw a recovery vehicle ordered.

It was after three-and-a-half hours that Mr Hurley was eventually picked up from the roadside.

Reflecting, he said he felt the 'system let me down', with the lack of mobile phone signal and data giving him limited options.

'Emergency services are over-stretched already,' he said, 'so flagging down a passer-by to call 999 on my behalf would be seen as a waste of public resources but what other options did I have?'

He added that without the single bar of signal, he 'had nothing' and felt forced to have 'blind faith' he would be rescued.

'I was alone. Vulnerable. I was not able to be that person I normally am, confident and assured, in control,' he said.

Mr Hurley said it was time something was done about the region's poor connection. 'This is 2016 – come on! Let's raise awareness about the patchy mobile phone signal and Broadband provision in Norfolk, get it up there on a public agenda,' he said.

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