The irony of this post is not wasted upon us, as those it is of most interest to are the ones least likely to be able to read it at the moment. Over the last couple of weeks, BT Openreach contractors have been beavering away, making the final infrastructure provisions to bring the fibre-optic cable from the BT exchange in Shrewton to the DSLAM (the new green box) on the verge of the A303 close to the entrance to the Manor House.
Yesterday (19 July 2017), they were mole-ploughing in the ducting for the fibre on the south of the B3083 close to the junction with the A303; a matter of a few hundred metres at most. What could possibly go wrong?
Despite carefully surveying the route, the contractors appear to have put the mole-plough through the old and festering aluminium telephone cable, thereby cutting off Winterbourne Stoke from the outside world.
BT first told us that they were waiting for specialist engineers to arrive to work out where the break was and that it wouldn’t be fixed until Friday 21st July. Later in the day, a relative of a vulnerable villager who is reliant on a land-line service for emergency situations, was told it was going to be fixed either last night, or this morning. As of 0900 on 20 July, the telephone lines lie silent.
What is quite frightening is just how reliant and vulnerable we all are when it comes to communications. Yes, many of us have mobile phones as well as land-lines, but the coverage in the village isn’t perfect and they can’t always be depended on. Some facilities, like emergency alarm systems for the sick and elderly, only work with a land-line (or fibre) so when the telephone line fails, we have no back-up.
We have villagers awaiting phone calls relating to urgent medical appointments. Because the lines have been cut, the caller simply hears the phone ringing and ringing and ringing. They can’t get through or leave a message. Relatives may try and call family members and also can’t get through.
The broadband fails as we do not have fibre. People who normally work from home, can’t. Files can’t be uploaded or downloaded – deadlines can be missed.
Of course, if we had a reliable mobile service, mobile broadband would be an option for some – at a price. Even then, many have this facility on a mobile phone, but may not have the facility or knowledge to “tether” a desktop or laptop to their phone.
One of the most important reasons for our drive to get fibre to the village was to allow us some redundancy in communications. We will get there, and we hope it will be soon.
If any villagers need to send urgent emails or files whilst the village is cut off, please contact a Parish Councillor and we will see what we can do to help. Similarly, if you can read this and we are still disconnected from land-lines, please check on your neighbours to see if they have any communications problems we might be able to help with.