Mobile Phone and Internet
Update prepared by Graham Read
This update is about progress so far and what more you can do to help get something done about the poor mobile phone and internet coverage in the Teign Valley area, particularly in Christow.
Thank you if you have already signed our petition and thank you again if you have written to some or all of the organisations who are in a position to press to get these things fixed.
Reminder of the situation
The Government committed to resolve both mobile phone and internet coverage across the whole UK by 2026; but as yet there is no timetable for this to happen in the Christow area and things may even get worse.
Ø Mobile Phone coverage
· Approval was given for a mast at Bennah but it wasn’t built. O2/Virgin say it wasn’t financially viable. Vodafone blamed the Home Office! MP Mel Stride is still pressing for an answer.
· Mel recently got confirmation that the proposed new Blackingstone mast would not benefit Christow. Vodafone say other options are being ‘explored’ but none are proceeding so far.
· Some areas at the bottom of the village used to get a weak Vodafone signal but that was turned off a few years ago. For them, things have got worse.
· MPs and ministers have repeatedly said there will be better provision – but it hasn’t happened for us. We need to press them and other parties who have influence and the ability to move things on.
· Dunsford recently campaigned successfully to get a mobile signal. We can do the same!
· Do you have examples of where lack of signal was a problem? Your MP (Mel Stride) is there to support you and needs to be reminded of the problems to be able to help you.
· Fibre comes to the cabinet at the bottom of the village. Beyond that all internet relies on old BT copper cable infrastructure (phone lines). That is why internet speeds are slow for many of us.
· BT Openreach have no plans to replace the copper cabling because it would cost too much. There is no appetite by anyone to do anything now. Furthermore, the Government plans to stop supporting the copper cabling that most of Christow relies on. As it fails, connection will be lost. Things will get worse, not better!
· Some residents looked into the Government funded Gigabit Broadband Voucher scheme and concluded that it couldn’t work for Christow (a lot of work and not enough people interested).
· Alternatives don’t work for everyone:
o Cloud (Airband) relies on line of sight to transmitter; it is good where it works, but for many properties it doesn’t because of trees, hills and valleys. It’s worth investigating for your property but best get checks done by them in summer when trees are in leaf.
o Satellite solutions like Starlink are expensive and have other drawbacks but do give good stable speed – they can be impacted by weather.
· Do you have examples of poor internet service and the problems it causes? Your MP is there to support you – and needs to be aware of and reminded of a problem to help you.
Current position and opportunities to get things moving
1. The BDUK (Building Digital UK) project is funded by government to bring forward and pay for better broadband and mobile coverage – if you help put enough pressure on our MP (Mel Stride) and others (see below), this is our best bet for a more timely solution to good internet & broadband connectivity and a mobile signal. www.gov.uk/guidance/building-digital-uk
2. We want to be on BDUK’s next round of broadband fibre roll out – that’s what we need to ask for!
3. For mobile coverage, the action and approach is the same – but we need to ask for a mast.
4. The good news is that responses to pressure from us are now starting to bear fruit, thanks to many of you who’ve written to your MP. The bad news is that we still don’t have any firm plans, promises or timebound commitment to solutions.
5. For real progress it needs MPs to apply pressure on providers and to do that they need all of us to tell them what we want. Collectively MPs have authority, power and access to funds to fix this now.
6. Mel Stride (our local MP) has pressed Ofcom and has got our issue of poor mobile and internet coverage on their radar; Mel has also pressed BT and O2, Three, Vodafone and EE.
7. Mel has made a real effort to help solve the local internet/mobile signal issues, but it isn’t enough.
8. To make a real difference it needs as many people as possible to write as often as you can to your MP, BT Openreach, Ofcom, your own mobile phone providers, your own internet providers, Connecting Devon and others to ask for service to be sorted out.
I am asking you to join me in writing and pressing for action:
· write to Mel Stride email@example.com and others;
· sign our petition petitions.net/connect_christow , confirm you are happy to be contacted;
· send me your examples of problems caused by poor internet / mobile coverage for me to share with the press (please confirm your permission for me to share wider) firstname.lastname@example.org – let me know if you want to be more involved.
See the next pages for a list of people and organisations you can write to and some message templates that you can copy and adapt.
Who you can contact and what to say
The top ten. Start at the top and work down – the more you can do, the better.
Base your message on the notes provided or adapt one of the message templates on the next pages.
1. Your MP - Mel Stride email@example.com Ask him to keep pressing all relevant parties to get our appalling mobile and internet connectivity sorted out. Give examples of the issues you have had.
2. Leader of Devon CC firstname.lastname@example.org As for Mel Stride.
3. Leader of Teignbridge DC email@example.com As for Mel Stride.
4. BDUK (part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport) firstname.lastname@example.org Ask them to ensure that the Christow area is prioritised for improved mobile signal and fibre broadband under the Shared Rural Network and Project Gigabit schemes. Tell them we have already explored the Gigabit Broadband Voucher sheme but this is not suitable for us. We need to be included in the next round of procurements for telecoms providers to deliver a gigabit capable network to our area, including full fibre to property, not least as much of the parish also suffers from a lack of mobile signal and many properties cannot receive Airband either.
5. Shared Rural Network (mobile programme) email@example.com Ask them to insist that the mobile network operators prioritise searching for mast sites that will benefit the communities that need coverage most (e.g. Christow and the Teign Valley) rather than sparsely or unpopulated areas of the Dartmoor National Park. https://srn.org.uk/
6. Connecting Devon and Somerset (internet/broadband provision) firstname.lastname@example.org Ask them to ensure that Christow is included in the next tranche of full fibre to property installation, not least as much of the parish also suffers from a lack of mobile signal and many properties cannot receive Airband either.
7. Vodafone, O2, Three, EE (all mobile providers use one of these four network operators and they are the ones responsible for putting up masts)
8. Your mobile contract provider – complain that you cannot get full benefit from your contract because of limited opportunity to use your smartphone for the purposes for which it was designed. Give examples of the issues and bad experiences you’ve had. Ask them to put pressure on their carrier Mobile Network Operator (look up which one it is at https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/mobiles/piggybacking/#tablepiggyback)
9. Your internet service provider – complain about slow speeds, unreliable service etc and give examples of the issues and bad experiences you’ve had. Ask them to put pressure on the Government and BDUK to get full fibre to property installed in our area.
10. The Home Office (who already have an Extended Area Service ‘EAS’ emergency services mast at Ashton that could provide 4G coverage to Christow – this is how Dunsford got their signal). Ask them to allow their mast to be used by the mobile network operators to provide a signal to the general public in this not-spot area. ESMCPComms@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk . Copy in BDUK, the SRN and the MNOs and (see 4, 5 and 7 above).
Others to contact
· Teignbridge District Councillor for our area Stephen.Purser@teignbridge.gov.uk
· Devon County Councillor for our area Jerry.Brook@Devon.gov.uk
· Head of Strategic Planning at DNPA, Dan Janota email@example.com As for the SRN (5. above).
· Ofcom – regulator firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
· Ofcom – internet side OCCtelecoms@ofcom.org.uk
· NHS England chief executive, Amanda Pritchard (you could quote this: The health secretary, Sajid Javid, said the Kinetigraph was a “fantastic example of how technology is driving cutting-edge innovation in healthcare” – unless you live in a not-spot like Christow https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/apr/16/nhs-smartwatch-for-parkinsons-patients-hailed-as-lifechanging)
· Doctor – so you can make repeat prescriptions and appointments
· Dentist – does your dentist send appointment reminders by SMS?
· Heads of schools, colleges, universities etc if relevant to you – ask them to ask their pupils to write to all relevant parties in support of getting internet and mobile coverage improved
· Water (south west water) – contacting customer services, paying bills, reporting leaks
· Electricity (your provider) –– so you can get a smart meter
· Your bank/building society – for online banking and mobile apps
· HMRC – if you’re self employed, running a business or have to do tax returns
Suggested wording for emails
Please adjust any draft you use to make it yours and make sure you only send something you are happy with. You can mix and match from the three suggestions below and add your own examples of problems. If all messages are the same they won’t carry the same weight.
Good luck with your messaging and please do share with me any replies you get.
Message 1: for politicians, council leaders, BDUK, SRN, Connecting Devon and Somerset and the four mobile phone network operators (Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three)
Lack of internet and mobile coverage in Christow near Exeter
I’d be grateful for your help with regard to mobile and internet coverage for Christow and the Teign Valley, near Exeter, Devon (EX6 postcode area). I believe that you are in a position to make something happen?
Our MP, Mel Stride, has been helping our community press for reliable broadband and mobile coverage, but we’re still lacking answers or any clear sign of concrete plans to improve the situation. Please can you and your team seek out and fully answer ALL of the following:
- When will Christow have an acceptable mobile signal and internet service for all, from all main providers at a sensible price? What have you done to make sure this happens?
- What have you done to ensure that ceasing support for copper cabling won’t adversely impact anyone in Christow?
- Our internet service is adversely affected by the unreliability of the old copper/aluminium data cabling – when exactly will this be addressed? Please explain why you haven’t resolved this already?
- For many in the area the internet service is already considerably slower than claims from providers. Do you consider it acceptable for internet users to be misled in this way? What will you do and when to rectify this?
- Mobile phone coverage in our area is at best dreadful and for many it is non-existent. Why do you consider the situation acceptable? If you don’t consider this to be acceptable, why haven’t you fixed it already?
- Do you consider mobile phone coverage in the Christow area to be acceptable? If you do, why?
- What are you doing to ensure that there are options available for all to verify themselves on internet accounts without mobile coverage; or as many people in our village – without good enough internet service to hold a connection to their bank, the NHS, doctors, online learning and other critical services? Do you know of anyone who thinks this to be acceptable? If you do, please can I have their full contact details.
I look forward eagerly to your response. I am hoping that you are personally in a position to help; but if you are not, please do give me the name and full contact details of the relevant Chief Executive so I can send this email to that person.
Message 2: for banks and other online businesses.
Subject: Mobile phone and Internet coverage in Christow, Teign Valley, Devon
I’d be grateful for your help.
I live in the Teign Valley, Devon, just six miles due West of the city of Exeter. This is not a ‘remote’ or ‘hard to reach’ area yet our group of villages, home to around 3,000 people, has very poor, unreliable internet and mobile phone service with no current government or network operator plans to do anything about it. There is a government commitment to have improved coverage across the UK by 2026 but we have found out that for this area there are no prospects of action on the ground for the foreseeable future.
The impact of us being second class citizens in the modern digital age (dreadful internet & mobile coverage) for organisations such as yours is that residents and businesses in this area can’t easily validate/verify their accounts, can’t pay bills on time or place orders, can’t access personal records, in short, they can’t access modern technology and can’t respond when others expect them to. Digital access is no longer a luxury but a necessity for full participation in 21st century life and this will increasingly become the case as time goes by. The rapid expansion of multi-factor authentication via SMS messaging over the last 12 months is the latest example of this.
Mel Stride (our local MP) has been putting pressure on relevant parties, but it needs more. It needs businesses such as yours to put pressure on your own MPs to help us get confirmed dates for when internet and mobile phone coverage will be addressed in our area. While your older and less able customers are disproportionately adversely affected, your commitments to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion can’t be met – we need your help to get a solution.
Please can I ask that you get back to me in the next 14 days to explain what you and your organisation are doing to help your customers in our community to address these problems? Please can I ask that you confirm you put these issues top of the list of areas that you will focus on to support vulnerable people in our local community? Please can you specifically support our community to get reasonable mobile phone and internet coverage quickly?
Message 3: for NHS, your employer, schools and colleges, doctors etc.
Mobile phone coverage/internet coverage in the Christow area, Devon
I…..of……. would be grateful for your assistance, please.
There is poor internet and mobile phone coverage in the Christow area and the Teign Valley generally (population ~3,000), which not only has the potential to delay calling emergency services, but also leaves everyone in the area unable to use the web and mobile phones to the extent that most people in the country can. We have particularly suffered from this ‘double whammy’ of poor digital connectivity during the last two years: the signal is so patchy and unreliable that we have been unable to do in the Valley what others take for granted elsewhere such as Zoom work meetings, banking, online learning & NHS verifications to sort out essential medication or set up accounts to order lateral flow tests.
On a more personal note, the lack of signal is particularly worrying/problematic when … (give your own example like the one that follows, and that is relevant to the organisation you are writing to)
I travel alone - should my car break down I have no means of summoning getting help. You are now doubt already be aware of instances in the Christow area where no mobile phone coverage was available to summon help quickly. Something similar happening again in future when it could have been avoided would be unforgivable. If someone is taken ill or injured while out and about the only option is to knock on someone’s door to borrow their landline to call for an ambulance. Please do give me your opinion as to whether think this situation is acceptable?
It seems very unfair that rural communities are penalised in this way and it hampers you in your attempt to provide an efficient service to everyone. I’m asking that you help us to get this situation addressed by contacting the relevant ministers, Government departments, MPs and service providers and putting pressure on them to get in place a clear plan to bring decent broadband and mobile phone services to this area of Devon.
Please get back to me as soon as you can with an update on how you are supporting us and which organisations and individuals you have contacted to make them aware of the situation. If you have had responses from any of these organisations and individuals I would be very grateful if you could share them with me.