Rural Broadband, or lack of it. My whinge to Helen Grant MP.

We’ve been plagued with lousy broadband and mobile reception for as long as our company has been in existence. We manage to hold it all together but with no help from BT or the other big communications companies.

Today MP Helen Grant is holding a meeting in nearby Cranbrook with Ed Vaizey, MP
Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries in attendance. One article states that there will be mention of new legislation regarding mobile phone coverage but nothing to do with the broadband. I was intending to go along but I have had no response to my email to Mrs Grant regarding the availability of spaces (it’s meant to be quite busy).

Below is a version of the email text I sent to Mrs Grant highlighting the problems we’re facing through lack of decent broadband.

Here’s a summary:

  • Lack of decent broadband in our area is really hampering our internet based business which at present benefits the environment, the local community and a number of individuals (see below)/
  • Estimated costs of keeping the existing system working to date are over £10k in lost time, lost custom and I.T. Costs.
  • BT can’t or won’t say when or if they will ever get around to replacing the inadequate infrastructure in our area. Off the record discussions with BT engineers produce very different dialogue to the official line in the media and the phone. The official line has been that it’s coming really soon but that has been shown to translate into ‘hurry up and wait’ for years. The engineers usually say something along the lines of ‘I wouldn’t hold your breath mate’.
  • It is embarrassing to have our remote workers laugh at us from more rural locations than ours, in the Pyrenees in Spain, France and the Brecon Beacons in Wales because they all have better broadband than we do and pay a lot less for it.
  • 4G or reliable 3G would go some way to relieving the problems but those are not available here either. Again, no one will or can say if this will be changing.
  • An honest ‘No. You won’t be getting good broadband for ages’ would be more appreciated than the ‘It’s just around the corner’ stuff that I’ve been hearing for years.

Here’s the story:

We run a small home-based, internet based business in Rolvenden Layne, Cranbrook. We employ six people here and regularly use a further six who work remotely. The remote workers connect to their computers here in our office using the internet. They include a single mother in Spain and another near Brighton plus two women in rural France and a someone in rural Wales. The fact that these people are able to work remotely is literally lifestyle-sustaining for them as they would not be able to survive where they are without our employment.

The remote working also allows the office based personnel to work from home as well. So, with flexible work hours it means that kids can be picked up and dropped off during normal work time and that work can be done in evenings and weekends if required.

We are very proud of the little bit that we’re doing to minimise our effect on the environment by allowing everyone to work from home. It also benefits the local community because we use the local shop for day to day groceries and the post office for sending out our product and of course we employ local people as well as those in far away places.

But, this all depends upon the broadband infrastructure being robust and reliable enough to support the movement of large files, email traffic and the remote workers, which brings me to the reason for this message.

It is a source of great annoyance for me and amusement for others that our workers in far more remote rural areas of France, Spain and Wales have better internet accessibility than we do in the prosperous South East of England some fifty miles from London. Yup, the Welsh, French and Spanish are laughing at us. Typical comments are along the lines of ‘I bet the bankers and BT executives don’t have that problem where they live’ and ‘that sums up Britain’.

My present and inadequate solution is to have a satellite broadband connection and a SLU phone line ADSL. Both these systems are required for technical reasons that I’ll explain if anyone’s interested. The cost of the two systems is around £200 per month but that’s not the main gripe. The biggest problem is that the two systems don’t work well together which is the bit I’m trying to sort out this evening.

So, we’re paying 5 or 10 times as much as most of the country for a worse service and it’s debateable whether we can continue with the substandard service that we receive at the moment. If we are unable to carry on as we are we shall probably have to rent a nearby office with decent broadband. This will jeopardise our business and will mean more driving and pollution and a move away from the lifestyle we’ve worked hard to build.

All these problems would be sorted instantly if we just had normal decent speed broadband like most of the rest of the country and europe has.

So, if there’s any way for the governement to work with the big ISP companies (who, let’s face it, aren’t short of a bob or two) to get us a reasonable broadband connection, we can carry on doing our bit for the planet and the local community and various parties around the UK and Europe who rely on us.

For what it’s worth, this means so much to me that I will happily vote for any party who guarantees better broadband for those of us ‘out in the sticks’ regardless of their other policies,

There you go. Whinge over with. I’m aware that I’m extremely lucky to be able to live and work in such a beautiful part of the country and it’s just really frustrating that the data / communications side of things is threatening this cushy little existence.


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