RESIDENTS on the outskirts of Chepstow will be better off using two tin cans and a piece of string to communicate after being left for three weeks without telephone or internet service, David Davies MP said.
A number of people in the village of St Arvans have been cut off since 12th February when BT Openreach engineers damaged several cables while carrying out work in the area.
Service providers have been told engineers are waiting for permission from Monmouthshire County Council to use temporary traffic lights in order to repair the fault. No date for a permanent fix has been given.
Monmouth MP David Davies paid a visit to St Arvans on Thursday to meet with one of the residents affected.
Barry Carlino, who runs a local high-tech business from his home, said the community relies heavily on the use of landlines because mobile phone signal coverage is so poor.
“As well as people like me who are trying to keep a business going, we have vulnerable retired people for whom phone and broadband is a vital link to the outside world, young mothers for whom a working landline provides peace of mind, and of course everybody who just wants to talk, surf, shop and do their banking securely,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we feel that all parties are failing to take the matter seriously and are happy to blame someone else. Service providers are blaming BT Openreach and BT Openreach are blaming the local council for not allowing them to install traffic lights to complete the work.
“My wife and I are therefore left worrying how my dad, who is in his 80s and not in the best of health, would be able to get hold of us in an emergency, while our elderly neighbours have to hope that we don’t get a cold snap which will mean that they are completely isolated.
“The telecoms companies have been successful in making phone and broadband another vital utility. Now they have to start acting like the power, gas and water companies and make sure their customers get the service for which they are paying.”
Although part of the BT Group, Openreach is a separate business which owns and runs the UK’s largest copper and fibre network.
Hundreds of smaller broadband providers which compete with BT, including Sky and TalkTalk, have to pay Openreach for the right to use the network.
Mr Davies believes this gives BT an unfair commercial advantage. He has also raised concerns that confusion over the arrangement between Openreach and providers, as well as difficulties for customers trying to communicate directly with Openreach, makes it hard for consumers to get the service they are entitled to.
“The problem is compounded by a lack of direct accountability to both the public and Members of Parliament,” added Mr Davies.
“Openreach are almost impossible to get hold of and very difficult to deal with.
“We live in the 21st century digital era and for residents in St Arvans to be left without any effective means of communication for three weeks and counting is not good enough.
“After the General Election, we need to look at the way Openreach is held accountable because they are in a monopoly position and have a duty to be more open towards end users.”