North West Wales

Farmers complain over dead phone lines in rural areas

Crackly or dead phone lines in rural areas have been highlighted as an on-going problem by farming union members.

The Farmers' Union Wales (FUW) said the issue had put rural businesses at a disadvantage and called for action from telephone service supplier BT.

One customer said she suffered over a three month period last winter adding that she dreaded the same thing happening again.

BT said it was currently installing new technology.

Customer Gwenda Roberts from Gwytherin, Conwy, said her problems began last November with intermittent cracking and a dead line.

"We were ringing them (BT) and they were promising to come out, but then weren't turning up, or they were fixing it and then it was broken again by the next day," she told BBC Radio Cymru's Taro'r Post.

"It was absolutely horrendous and in the end a new pole turned up, I was so happy... but then it didn't work again. It was like a yo-yo.

"It's been so frustrating because we live here on the farm and it's a business too.

"I'm worried now that it will happen again this winter as soon as the weather turns."

Gwyn Williams, from the FUW, said Mrs Roberts's experience is a reflection of what is happening in many rural areas.

"This is the type of complaint that we hear about over and over," he said.

The phone problems also affected broadband, he added.

"We were contacted by one farm wife who was totally dependent on broadband for her work and she was being fobbed off with all sorts of reasons why it wasn't being fixed.

"Then when the union took up the matter and her story appeared in the press it was fixed in three days.

"The infrastructure has been in place in some instances since the 1960s and it needs more than just being patched up."

A spokesperson for BT said those who lived in properties with a long line were susceptible to damage by high winds "but we will always repair the line at no cost".

But the spokesperson added Superfast Cymru, a partnership between Welsh government and BT, was ensuring that high speed fibre broadband was available in rural as well as urban areas, and that will ultimately improve the situation.

"It aims to give, when combined with commercial roll-out, 96% of premises in Wales access to fast fibre broadband by 2016.

"The Welsh government is working to identify an appropriate and flexible mechanism to address high-speed broadband availability in the remainder."

The spokesperson said fibre broadband was already available in rural parts of Gwynedd as part of the roll-out.

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