Suffolk residents had the chance to grill BT Openreach’s CEO last week in a discussion about poor broadband across the county.
The meeting, which was organised by Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill, let people voice their problems to Clive Selley, including poor communication from Openreach, slow connection speeds, confusing terms on the BT Openreach web site and residents’ individual issues.
At the meeting in Ringshall Village Hall, Mrs Churchill, who is campaigning for better broadband for residents, said: “I think one of the frustrations comes from what we are being told about what speeds are available in places as far away as Rwanda but here for example in Ringshall you can not even get on, so it is a question of bridging that gap.”
The Universal Broadband Service Obligation, which has been set up with BT and the government, is hoping to give every home and business in the UK the right to request a high speed connection of at least 10 Megabits per second (MBps) by the end of 2020.
Mr Selley said that although around 95 per cent of premises already have access to super fast broadband - 24MBps- which is more than enough for average households, rural areas were presenting unique challenges.
He said: “While we are getting around 15,000 homes on super fast per week, the volume of noise and frustration from those who are not is going up.
“We are committed to doing the roll out as quickly as we can, though I fully accept that in Suffolk we have got some catching up to do.”
People who were at the discussion included Clare and Scott Moore, from Gislingham, who both work from home with Mr Moore running an IT business. Houses 400m away from them have fast broadband but they only have 0.5MBps.
Mr Moore said: “We are one of those remote properties down the line, as a business we are being excluded from using programmes for wages and things because we tell them our broadband speeds, they tell us to forget it.
“If it gets much worse or we were not going to get fast broadband for five years we would have to move.”
Mrs Moore also said it was a matter of communication with the company about their issues.
Another person unhappy with communication was Brian Lummis from Borley Green.
Nearby Woolpit is fully connected with super fast broadband but in his hamlet they are not.
He suggested villages should have broadband champions to help BT Outreach solve the problems.
He said: “It needs to be a two-way system though as I find it very frustrating that I can not get an answer to a simple question and you go round and round in circles.”
Other solutions proposed by Mr Selley were to have better collaborations with councils, directly connecting isolated homes to fibre lines and projects to complete whole villages by checking for isolated places.
The question was asked if the CEO believed the universal broadband obligation target at the end of 2020 was realistic as it was believed that there was a funding shortfall of around £20 million for the project.
He said: “We have three years to go and MP Matthew Hancock is working very hard to come up with funding arrangements that will make that possible.
“So if the money is on the table and we had the three years we could get very close.”
After the meeting, Mrs Churchill said: “It is really important for residents and businesses to see Openreach are doing more than just acknowledging the situation and are willing to reach out to affected areas,
“I want to be able to work with Openreach, Suffolk County Council, local residents and businesses to resolve this problem.
“That, I believe, is what it will take and this meeting must be a first step to making this happen.”