Author Archives: oandmit

Team changes

Alison Anderson has left to resume her previous career in editing whilst Lucy has joined us and is presently trying to swim having been chucked into the deep end with a complicated mechanical O&M job.


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.

2014 starts just a busily as 2013 finished

We were expecting the usual pre-new year rush to get O&M Manuals finished off in a bid to start the new year with a clean slate, and we were not wrong.

However, there’s usually a lull at the start of the year but the first few months of 2014 have been anything but quiet.

The general feeling is that main and subcontractors are all just getting fed up with always having problems with their Operation and Maintenance manuals and have at last decided to farm them out and make them someone else’s problem.

Well. It’s an ill wind that blows no good they say. And as such, we’re getting the benefit of other people’s problems.

Anyway. It’s getting to the point now whereby we’re very close to running at full capacity and we’re trying to book in future work for existing clients before taking on new customers.

Beware of the Cold Caller

It’s come to our attention that there are some companies out there who scan local council websites looking for people who have lodged planning permission applications. They then write to them offering their services.

Recently a friend was notified by his neighbour that they had received a letter from a company making them “aware of some important legal information about these works” that may be relevant under the Party Wall etc Act 1996. They mentioned if works involved digging foundations within 3 metres of your building and the foundations are deeper than your own foundations, then the person intending to build must give you written notice and drawings of the works at least one month before the works commence. Once you receive this notice you are legally entitled to appoint a ‘party wall surveyor’ of your choosing to safeguard your rights under the Act. All true under “the Act”.

The party wall surveyor will ensure that works are conducted lawfully and that you don’t suffer any unnecessary inconvenience. The surveyor will also prepare a report on the condition of your property before works start and return after their completion to ensure there has been no damage. The person intending to build will be responsible for paying your surveyor’s reasonable fees. Under “the Act” it is true that the person intending to build will have to pay the costs of the surveyor even though he has not appointed that surveyor.

But if you have a good relationship with your neighbours why pay for these companies to do something that you would do as a good and responsible neighbour? Go over and talk to your neighbour about your plans before you put in that planning application and keep them informed. Along with your neighbour, photograph his property before works start and both of you agree on the general state of the building and put this in writing. If the builder does do something to damage your neighbour’s property then rectify it.

If you want/need to go down the route of employing a party wall surveyor, check their credentials, terms and conditions and costs before you sign on the dotted line. It may end up costing you a lot more than you think.