Hexham MP demands action on village's phone problem

Hexham MP Guy Opperman has summoned BT to the House of Commons to sort out crippling communication problems in Hedley on the Hill once and for all

Helen Greer and Rhian Cradock of The Feathers Inn
Helen Greer and Rhian Cradock of The Feathers Inn

A Northumberland village which has struggled on without proper phone and internet connection for seven years is finally getting its voice heard.

Hexham MP Guy Opperman has summoned BT to the House of Commons to sort out crippling communication problems in Hedley on the Hill once and for all.

The MP will meet with bosses this week to thrash out a solution for Hedley, a small village of under 100 homes.

He called the village’s situation unacceptable and dangerous, especially in cases of emergency.

“For too long now, Hedley has suffered greatly from an inadequate broadband and telephone service,” he said.

“Broadband is almost non-existent, and there are constant disruptions to phone lines.

“It is a disgrace that Hedley has been left behind with communications from the 20th Century.

“Quite simply, BT Openreach needs to invest in upgrading the old telephone cables, something that I know their own engineers want to see.

“The lines constantly break and take weeks to repair, so my constituents are always on a knife edge, knowing they could be left without a service for days on end. It is not only an inconvenience, but downright dangerous, and this is simply unacceptable”.

Mr Opperman has received more than 40 letters from the village complaining to BT about the phone and internet connection.

One of those complainants is Helen Greer, who runs the village’s award-winning gastropub The Feathers Inn, recently named among the top 20 in the UK.

She says poor connection has had a huge negative impact on her business.

“Our business relies on us taking reservations over the phone,” she said. “But we often can’t take bookings because we can’t hear people.

“Our broadband connection is slower than dial-up so relying on internet bookings is no better.

“Earlier this year we had no phone connection for up to six weeks, which was unbelievable.

“We have people from far and wide wanting to visit us as we’ve won many awards for the quality of our food, but what’s the point if they can’t get in touch?

“There’s a BT Openreach van in the village every week patching up a problem somewhere but it would be money better invested if they just replaced the old telephone cables.

“I’m hugely grateful to Guy Opperman for tackling this problem head-on and taking it to the House of Commons. I just hope he can help us get this finally sorted.”

A spokesperson for BT said: “The BT network in Hedley has already been reinforced following previous discussions and fault reports are now below average.

“The reality is that line lengths and technology constraints make it very difficult to improve the current broadband speeds. Broadband speeds decrease over distance and Hedley is a long distance from the exchange.

“This is an issue affecting other rural communities across the UK and the reason why the Government introduced the BDUK programme, which will tackle the issues of slow speeds in areas outside of BT’s £2.5bn commercial roll-out of fibre, which will cover two thirds of the UK by the end of spring next year.”

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