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AVOICE in the wilderness, dear reader: that's what I've been since my attempted New Year flirtation with superfast broadband.

No one, I have been told, has enjoyed the weekly tales of trials and tribulations to which I have doggedly subjected you to since putting in my order for a mouthwatering 30 megabyte connection last January 6. The continuous installation postponements ... the 'excess download charges' I still pay and which the laughingly ironic BT 'Infinity' was supposed to make a thing of the past ... the apologetic calls and messages from call centres in a different hemisphere ... the pitying looks in the eyes of BT engineers when I flag down the Outreach van and plead, in vain, for help.

It is costing me friendships: These days the Byreman only reads The Journal on a Friday to see if he's in it. And the Lawnmower Salesman has become downright rude.

"Oh no!" he wailed when I gave him a rundown of this column's likely contents over a pint. "Not MORE bilge about BT? Whatever happened to your everyday stories of us simple countryfolk?" My mood darkened from gloomy to bleak at our parish council meeting.

"Ho-ho!" chortled Dougie the county councillor. "Your name was mud with BT at the North Area Committee meeting last night, hee-hee! According to them, you're the fly in their ointment, ha-ha!" So today's column, long-suffering reader, was to have been different. Convinced I had become a whinging, self-pitying BT compulsive-obsessive I was instead writing cheerful, chummy tales of life in Godzone with a sly dig at Klondike (his wind turbine money factory held its champagne launch yesterday, Banksy sadly uninvited) and a barrow-load of laughs at the expense of the bibulous Byreman ...when the phone rang.

"Quick, listen to Radio Four. Now!" She Who Must Be Instantly Obeyed, driving to Madame Fifi's Salon in Berwick for her pre-summer shearing, had pulled into a lay-by to tip me the wink. "They're talking about broadband failure in Northumberland on You and Yours!" So I listened. And I replayed the programme again. And again. And oh, glory be I can say it: I TOLD you so!

Interviewed live, county councillor Steven Bridgett, representative for Rothbury and Coquetdale, confirmed my view that as far as north Northumberland is concerned BT stands for Bl***y Terrible.

Not content with having so far taken five months to provide me with a superfast connection from the fibre optic cable that runs not ten feet from my door, the 'privatised telecoms monopoly has installed inadequate cabling to cope with rural Northumberland's needs: supply is outstripped by demand, even at this early stage.

According to Cllr Bridgett, BT will have to re-open up the holes in our roads (for a third time, in the case of my village) to install even more cabling to carry the required load. They expect to have completed their 'snagging' operation "by early June", which makes my latest promised installation date of May 20 look pretty sick.

Need I remind you that Godzone (and Rothbury in particular) featured the first fanfared halfmillion-pound rollout of superfast broadband, financed from the government-funded PS20m Rural Community Broadband Fund? Remember the flurry of government VIPs who hastened north for 'photo-opps' with Berwick's broadband campaigner (and now its newly-elected MP, Anne-Marie Trevelyan), among them Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander and Environment Minister George Eustice? Since dumped by his electorate, Coalitionist Danny said at the time: "Our PS460,000 investment bringing superfast broadband to 1,500 homes and businesses [around Rothbury will] create jobs and sustainable growth for the region." Ho-ho!

George Eustice predicted, as a result of rural broadband, "a PS17billion uplift in the economy". Hee-hee!

There were other crowing selftributes, as I recall: a rural affairs minister, a communications minister and several bandwagoneers got in on the back-slapping act and if my broadband wasn't currently crawling along at snail's pace I could look them all up and quote them!

So much for 'superfast' broadband: how daft does THAT sound this morning? |

Oh, glory be I can say it: I TOLD you so!
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 15, 2015
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