I have a series of meetings this month as we continue the long campaign to get rural broadband rolled out across Tynedale. You would expect me to thank and applaud the successes of the recent roll out to villages like Stamfordham and Great Whittington, after years of slow or no broadband but sadly those successes are overshadowed by the villages left behind or still in the queue.
As I always say please do write in and let me know how it is going: I have recently had messages of problems from as far afield as The Swinburnes, Kielder and Heddon on the Wall, whilst locals in Barrasford talk of a false dawn from BT.
However, the successes around them has only magnified the ongoing problems in Matfen, and the surrounding hamlets of Ryal, Ingoe and Fenwick.
They have suffered from a very poor internet service. They are effectively being left behind. This isn't good enough and a solution must be found urgently.
The problem the villagers around Matfen face is because the village is at the end of a long connection to the local exchange ‘cabinet’ - which is located in neighbouring Fenwick. As a result, the County Council's first roll out of broadband upgrades has been unable to find a cost effective solution. Briskona is providing a local solution to some people but is very dependent on certain things.
I have already dealt with a number of local complaints and have now taken the issue to the top. I have now raised the issue with The Broadband Cabinet Minister, Sajid Javid, who has taken up my concerns with chiefs at BT Openreach, who I meet again on Monday.
I have met BDUK officials this last week, and the key now is finding a solution in the second round of broadband provision this spring. I am determined to work towards creating more suitable rural communities and broadband is a key feature. Broadband is just as essential to homes and businesses as electricity and telephone lines. It is unacceptable just to leave the village with such poor service for the future.
Cllr Veronica Jones and I will be holding a public meeting in Matfen on the 26th February, and more details on that and the work we are doing to follow, and when I write to the locals including the Parish Council soon.