News Story

A Worcestershire MP is joining forces with a local family to condemn what he describes as “the spectacular failure of the system to deliver a telephone line in anything like a reasonable timescale”.

Sir Peter Luff, MP for Mid Worcestershire, says,

“The delays being experienced by this family would be unacceptable in any circumstances, but given the particular needs of this family, they are truly shocking.”

In early January 2014 James and Susan Love moved house, after 30 years in their previous home, to Aldington in Worcestershire.

The principal reason for the move was to help their daughter who lives in Bidford on Avon. Their daughter is a single mum with two young children and about two years ago, after some years of ill health, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. In early 2013 she was extremely ill, hospitalised and required round the clock help. Susan and James had to more or less move in with her. They immediately began to look for a house nearby.

Their daughter, who is now on immune suppressant drugs which leave her susceptible to infections and extreme tiredness, decided with the help of James to set up her own business, working from home, as her previous work was too demanding. Timing for the business to get off the ground is critical as their daughter will be dependent upon the income.

Problems started, for Susan and James, almost immediately after their move to Aldington. They had booked, in early December 2013, an appointment through their telephone provider, Zen Internet, for Openreach to connect their telephone on the moving day 10th January 2014 and their daughter took a day off work to be there when Openreach arrived. No one turned up.

More than six months after booking the line connection, they are still not connected and so have no telephone or internet. To make matters worse, there is no mobile signal in the house from any of the networks. If they had internet, they could have a signal booster but for the past six months their only way to communicate from home is by post or sending SMS messages while leaning out of a bedroom window. Even then, it can take several minutes to get a signal.

Openreach is the only organisation that can lay the telephone cables and Susan and James have been told that Openreach are not allowed to communicate with the public and all contact must be through the telephone providers. To date from 10th January 2014 Susan and James have had a stream of email communications with Zen (each of which necessitates a drive in the car to somewhere where they can pick up or send the email). Zen have tried hard to keep them in the picture but the messages re Openreach are confusing to say the least. See quotes below from a few of the email and telephone exchanges.

Their next door neighbour who has also been waiting many months for telephone connection told Susan and James that his provider has been in touch to say that Openreach have found a blockage under a road, which will necessitate a road closure and they have to apply for planning permission, which could take three months. They did not indicate how long after that he would be connected. Susan and James have now received the same information from Zen.

This couple are at their wits end
• Their MP, Sir Peter Luff, has tried, three times, to help them by contacting Zen, BT and Openreach, without success so far
• For Susan and James to help their daughter, should she suddenly fall ill, is virtually impossible as they don’t know when she has sent a text or left a mobile message. It would have been quicker to get to her from their old home 50 minutes away.
• For James to help with their daughter’s new business, he must travel back and forth to Bidford to discuss issues that would normally be done by phone or internet.
• James has now been told that he urgently needs a hip replacement and the pain he is going through is not helped by the necessity for frequent trips to Bidford or out to collect emails and make phone calls.
• To progress a device that James has invented, he must have regular contact with his co-directors and backers, but there is no way for them to contact him, to arrange or reschedule meetings or to have telephone discussions. This is having a detrimental effect on the business, at a critical time.
• In the early days, following surgery, it is unlikely that the hospital will allow James to return home without a means of communication and if he is allowed home he will not be able to communicate for his own business or that of his daughter until he is able to drive again.

Although Susan and James love their new home in Aldington, the move is proving to have been a nightmare in the making. Susan says “others are sympathetic but unless you have been through a similar experience you cannot begin to imagine the stress and distress that it causes being cut off from friends, family and business contacts not to mention the cost which is considerable and the damage this could do to James’ business activities.”


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