Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

David Banks Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

David Banks Columnist

Article excerpt

IF the news that Etal Castle was down added a sense of doom to the pall of gloom that already clouded our weary community, far worse was to come. Oor Noble Laird had not been heard from in almost 36 hours.

"Lord Joicey has lost touch and there's no sign of anyone coming to his rescue," gasped a castle lieutenant. "If it can happen to His Lordship it can happen to any of us."

No, we hadn't slipped 500 years back in time; this was no faction replay of the Battle of Flodden. Rather, the Battle with Broadband (Round Two) between the blundering battalions of BT and the long-suffering guerrilla army of Godzone.

Eighteen months ago victor and vanquished met in our village hall to hear one of BT's senior Telecommanders apologise for ten wintry days during which the forgotten folk of far North Northumberland had been without access to the internet thanks to the ineptitude of the national telecoms overlord.

Mea culpa mouthed, hands shaken over a promise that such neglect would not reoccur, Godzone's peasant population was reassured. Relieved to escape the lynch mob with his life, BT's breast-barer beat a chastened retreat back to the Big City where an expense account lunch comes courtesy of Marco Pierre & Co and pensions are provided by the taxpayer.

How wrong we were!

This week it happened all over again: an outbreak of 'not-spots' as general broadband failure produced the familiar patchwork of blanked-out users whose contracts with a variety of internet service providers give the lie to BT's by-now-practised insistence that the faults were individual and somehow coincidental.

We still await any sign of a BT investigation at our antiquated telephone exchange where, for sure, a panel of connections has been overloaded and burned out as happened in our 2013 Battle of Broadband. Thwarted email users made w-w-weary by the latest fiasco are relieved that Oor Noble Laird, as well as a castle that is one of English Heritage's top regional attractions, have shared their frustrations and huge inconvenience. That might draw some attention to our plight.

Frankly, folk in remote rural areas have begun to believe that the monopoly BT enjoys as the sole conduit for now-vital international communications is being abused and that Ofcom is allowing the requirement for a reasonable level of customer service to continue unchecked. …

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