Fringe Box



Letter: Charity’s Internet Cut Off for 11 Days and There’s ‘No-one Dealing With It’

Published on: 1 Oct, 2021
Updated on: 1 Oct, 2021

From Sonja Freebody

CEO of the charity Headway

Our charity, Headway Surrey, is enduring a communications nightmare. We have had no internet or phone lines since Tuesday, September 21. It has had dire consequences.

We are a charity that helps people with acquired and traumatic brain injuries who often struggle with day to day activities.

As you can imagine, communication channels are essential when we work with vulnerable and at risk adults. Our neighbours at houses 36, 38, 40 and 42 North Street, Stoughton, who are similarly affected, need it to work from home and school children who do online homework and tests, which they cannot now do. Not to mention the fact that some of them cannot watch TV.

The history of the situation is that the building next to ours was demolished and three houses have just been built on the land. Virgin Media came to install their broadband and in doing so we are told, cut through our BT Openreach cable. Apparently, Virgin Media had contracted this work out to a third party, who tarmacked over the damage without reporting it.

It took several days for me to get a BT Openreach engineer to come and look at the road and using electronic means he gave us feedback on the damage.

The cables are still below tarmac, although we now think the tarmac has been dug up and relaid again (but no one noticed). We know this because there was a painted X on the spot and now there isn’t, just different tarmac.

Both telecoms companies have said they have sent a Form 55 to Surrey County Council. Surrey County Council are saying they have not received a form and know nothing about this.

There was talk of having traffic lights and needing to cordon off large parts of the road to do the work. This surprises me as it is a very quiet road, but maybe I do not understand how the remedial works will be done.

The crux of the matter is, we are 11 days into this very serious problem, with no internet and telephones and no resolution or plans. No one is dealing with it.

As a charity, this problem is taking up far too much of our time making calls to BT Open Reach, Virgin Media and Surrey County Council and empathising with the neighbours as they have no one else to turn to. This is valuable time, that we should be using to supporting vulnerable and at risk adults with acquired brain injury.

It is so important that we have communication in place as some of our clients have suicidal tendencies. It appears, that neither BT Openreach, Virgin Media or Surrey County Council seem to be doing anything.

Editors note: The Dragon has contacted BT Openreach, Virgin Media and Surrey County Council for a response to this issue.

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Responses to Letter: Charity’s Internet Cut Off for 11 Days and There’s ‘No-one Dealing With It’

  1. Martin Elliott Reply

    October 1, 2021 at 9:41 pm

    Openreach dropped the BT prefix over two years ago (look at any van) as the start of the proposed separation from BT services required by OFCOM.

    This was because of the long-term monopoly position of ownership/control of the ‘Home Loop’, the wiring from exchange to streets. This has to be used by every other telephone/internet provider except Virgin Media. In Guildford Virgin have their own wiring installed in the early 1990s.

    Of course, this doesn’t help. As a customer, you do have to speak to BT, but they then have to contact Openreach to try and get the fault repaired, as they’ve had to since privatisation.

  2. Roshan Bailey Reply

    October 1, 2021 at 10:17 pm

    I sincerely hope this will be resolved swiftly using all leverage possible, including “Dragon-power”. But it does highlight the downside of competition in supplying utility services. When something goes wrong there are so many questions: Whose problem is it? Whose fault is it? Whose responsibility to fix it? and to pay for the repair?

    Meanwhile, those who are paying for the down-time through seriously disruptive effects on their lives have no influence whatsoever and are barely given a thought by those arguing about all the “whose” questions.

    I really hope that Headway Surrey and their neighbours will have the service which they so desperately need, deserve and pay for, restored as a matter of urgency.

  3. David Wragg Reply

    October 2, 2021 at 12:50 pm

    I am very sympathetic as a charity such as Headway deserves very much better, and should be given priority treatment. That said, early last year my wife and I lost both our telephone line and BT Broadband for seven weeks. No apology, no compensation. It took three attempts at reconnection before service was restored.

    When we asked what had happened, BT said that we had asked to be disconnected: we hadn’t.

    During this period my father-in-law was rushed into hospital, and my wife had to keep her three sisters, one of whom lives in Australia, informed using a costly mobile phone. I was offered an appointment with my GP, by email, and didn’t realise this until too late, after my connection was restored.

    We took our complaint to OFCOM, who were a complete waste of time.

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