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Openreach UK Leaves Rural Wiltshire Village Cut-off for 3 Weeks

Thursday, Aug 10th, 2023 (9:07 am) - Score 2,064
2019 openreach telegraph pole

Network access provider Openreach has faced complaints from residents in the small rural Wiltshire village of Little Cheverell, which occurred after most of the community was left cut-off from broadband ISP and phone connectivity for three weeks due to a tree that fell and damaged the operator’s overground pole network.

In total, 95 out of 144 customer connections in the area were left disconnected. The problem is that the time it takes to replace a pole and fix related wiring can vary a lot, depending upon wider issues like as the need to seek road permits/permissions, whether ISPs have classified any local customers as “vulnerable” (faster response), safety of the site, availability of engineering resources and the level of local damage etc.

NOTE: Openreach’s network includes over 4 million poles across the UK, some of which are as much as 15 metres high (8-9m is more common).

In this case, the operator’s local network was cut off on 20th July 2023 when a tree fell in Low Road and disconnected the local lines – disrupting connectivity for most of the village. According to the Gazette and Herald, residents then had trouble getting Openreach to acknowledge and respond to the problem.


Some locals also raised concerns about the risk to life during the loss of access to a working phone service. But it’s worth noting that most mobile network operators claim to have good 4G coverage in the area, and EE has even managed to deploy some outdoor 5G.

A Spokesperson for Openreach said:

“The complex repair involves teams from Openreach and our partners, and our priority is to complete the work safely and as quickly as possible.

We re-erected the pole last week and applied for permission for traffic management, but were unsuccessful because of other works in the area. We tried to do this again with a diversion but were unable to effect a suitable workaround.

We now have permission to undertake the work tomorrow (Wednesday) for a period of three days. We have fibre and copper engineers ready to start and should have customers online quickly once their work can begin safely. We anticipate all customers being reconnected by Thursday afternoon.

We know how frustrating it is to be without phone and/or broadband and we’re really sorry we haven’t been able to get things repaired more quickly. It’s worth remembering that vulnerable status (which can prioritise repair work) is determined by broadband providers; if you think you or a family member should be given this status, please register with your provider.”

Openreach has previously informed us that, at least during major storm related issues (it’s unclear if this incident was caused by a storm), it can take around 20 days to fix damaged poles. But over the years we’ve seen examples where, in rare cases of extreme damage, rural areas have been left to wait for 6-12 weeks before repairs (here, here and here). But in urban areas, a downed pole may only be a matter of hours or just a few short days, although even these are dependent upon some of the aforementioned caveats.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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22 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Ribble says:

    Appears that tree fell onto the aerial cable and council contractors cut the tree, cable and pole to clear the road.

  2. Avatar photo OR says:

    A Spokesperson for Openreach said:

    “The complex repair involves teams from Openreach and our partners, and our priority is to complete the work safely and as quickly as possible.

    That’s nonsense excuse from OR. More likely can’t be arsed bothered turn up to do their job.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Phil. Calm down. Your recent comments here and on the forum aren’t the greatest.

      Read Ribble’s comment above yours and the part of the story mentioning Openreach haven’t been able to get permission to do traffic management to cable safely.

      Exactly none of the blame for this is on Openreach.

  3. Avatar photo Anthony says:

    Feel like I should get commission from the manufacturers for this comment. But its stories like this which makes me realize, everyone should get a VN007+ 5G Sim router for times like this as a backup.

    I could never go 3 weeks with no internet. Your whole life now is based around the internet. Its like saying 3 weeks with no water.

    1. Avatar photo BTMan says:

      Yes.. Because boredom and Death are the same no?

    2. Avatar photo Anthony says:

      With the switch over to everyone having VOIP. Old people and those with disabilities need a constant internet supply. And people need internet for their work these days. And in terms of no water. You can buy bottled water so you won’t die

  4. Avatar photo Localzuk says:

    Is there an imbalance here with permissions to effect repairs? If a water pipe bursts, or electricity cable comes down, the companies don’t need to go through longwinded processes to get permission to fix it – they have the right to undertake emergency repairs straight away. Indeed, I’ve had them do exactly the outside my flat several times.

    But telecoms? They don’t seem to have that right?

    1. Avatar photo RobC says:

      Correct – given this will have removed 999 services for those without mobiles, this should have been permitted as an emergency repair which could actually be done after the work has started.

    2. Avatar photo FibreBubble says:

      They will be able to get an emergency retrospective permit for safety, like a pole and cable down across the road.

      Looking at the site at one network it will need a road closure for recabling and it won’t be viewed by the council as an emergency despite my fave quote from where the article was lifted from….

      “Another resident, … has been forced to decamp from her home to a property she owns in Bath to enable her family to maintain connections and carry on working.”

      “My daughter Ophelia needs access to the phone and internet. She is going off to study in the United States and has been trying to arrange things working with different time zones.”

    3. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Having to go to their second home in a place so short of housing for people who actually want to live in it it’s 20 times the average income.

      The humanity!

  5. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

    These permits are little more than another way for these permits are little more than a stealth tax. Just a way for councils to collect more money.

  6. Avatar photo Jason says:

    What a dramatic headline ….. So basically Tree leave’s residents cut off for 3 weeks while Openreach begin repairs

    1. Avatar photo Frankly says:

      Maybe a more accurate headline would be ‘ council workers cut off village then delay repairs ‘

  7. Avatar photo Stephen says:

    How about council jobs worths leave village without 999 by refusing Openreach permission to repair damage to cables?

  8. Avatar photo Ryan says:

    With Truespeed announcing the 150 redundancies things do not bode well for the south west

  9. Avatar photo Chantal says:

    As a resident impacted by the internet cables going down in Little Cheverell, I thought I’d highlight some of the issues we experienced and the impact:
    This area has virtually no mobile signal (at best 1 bar of 3G in gardens or hanging out of bedroom windows) and all phone lines are now digital, no more copper wire as the wiring was totally corroded, meaning that for any communication we rely on wifi calling and/or VOIP. So next to not be able to use the internet for day to day communication, online banking, ordering repeat prescriptions from the GP surgery’s online system, information and work (many people, including myself have their own business and work from home), we could barely communicate with the outside world. Doing web design, I have 3 weeks loss of earnings. In addition during this period a friend was dying and we could not be easily contacted, my father is seriously ill and could not get in touch for emergencies, etc. etc. And that’s just me. If someone had a heart attack or stroke or a house on fire, they’d have to crawl down their garden in search of a signal to call emergency services. This was a serious situation, which was made worse by the lack consideration and action from OpenReach and a lack of sense of urgency in the council and/or the highway agency. In addition we were given false promises for when we’d be back up and running, meaning I inform my customers of when I can do the work for them, and then could not, hurting my reputation, next to all the frustration and stress. We’re back online now, thank goodness, but it does make one feel very vulnerable in this day and age, when everything is pushed online. I’ll get of my soapbox now 🙂

    1. Avatar photo Gary says:

      Bit dramatic with the crawl doen the garden line, mobiles can use any network in an area for emergency calls bit of course everyone forgets that when being overly dramatic

    2. Avatar photo Ben says:

      It sounds like internet connectivity is essential for your work. Have you considered a back up internet connection, perhaps using rooftop 4G antenna or something like Starlink?

    3. Avatar photo Chantal says:

      Gary, there is no reception here , no matter what network you’re with. The village is in a valley and the signals don’t really reach us. At best we get 1 bar of 3G in our garden or hanging out of our bedroom window. If anything were to happen to someone in the village, they genuinely would have had to find a spot with reception. I wish it was better, but it isn’t.

    4. Avatar photo Chantal says:

      Ben, we were hoping for that solution, but were told by our internet provider that wouldn’t work due to the lack of 4G reception in the area.

  10. Avatar photo Arty says:

    We (about 50 homes) were off for 5 weeks most with no mobile service earlier this year it took someone being a friend of the local councillor who contacted the local MP to get things moving. Still not smooth though , they ran temp cable after 4 weeks which then got cut by the verge trimmer . Definitely got the impression OR would struggle to find their ass with their hands. To add insult to injury BT customers were offered £30 compensation I got over £200 being with Vodafone.

  11. Avatar photo Rogan Josh says:

    Reality is Telecoms has become a utility in the same we Water, Electric and Gas have. The law should change to put it on the same footing as those latter utilities, the bureaucracy is unneeded for repairs and rewires.

    If I had a gas leak on my street National Gas Emergencies would be out within the hour, to investigate and diagnose the cause. They don’t need LA or community approval it just gets done.

    No excuse for the current situation, better it gets fixed ASAP and suffer minor inconvenience for a few days than lose access for weeks on end like the community in this article.

Comments are closed

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