My brother lives in a busy little town in Suffolk, much visited and photographed by tourists in the Summer months. The land is soft and undulating with the homely comfort captured by John Constable. The highest part of Suffolk is a town called Sudbury, perched on a mountain some 200m high. But neither my brother nor any of his neighbours can use a mobile phone in their own homes. They have to walk or drive a couple of hundred metres to get a signal – a situation to which Anglians are so used for it to be quite unremarkable.
He is amongst the one-third of rural households in England (not even the UK) who do not have access to the mobile network. The Telegraph reports
Brian Wilson, author of the report and chairman of Rural England, said: “Nearly a fifth of people in England live in rural areas, yet the evidence shows that many of them face inadequate services, such as being unable to make mobile phone calls or being without transport options.“Two years after we released the first State of Rural Services report it seems clear that rural residents frequently still lose out in terms of funding and access to services.
“The challenges facing rural communities are likely to grow in the coming years and this will be reflected in their service needs. If policies and service delivery were properly rural-proofed it seems evident that those needs would be much better met.”
The report found a basic mobile phone call cannot be made inside 33 per cent of rural buildings – an issue which affects just three per cent of urban premises.
Here in my bit of Austria one can no longer order a land-line for domestic use – the phone networks have abandoned these copper cages in other than the well-populated towns and valleys. The ‘handy’ is ubiquitous, and officialdom here has even stopped asking for both ‘home phone’ and ‘mobile phone’ numbers – almost everyone, including the elderly, just has the one.
I can think of a number of reasons, none of them good or adequate, for the UK’s abysmal performance. But then again there may be something I don’t know, some compelling and over-riding reason why mobile 4G networks can power one of Europe’s most sparsely populated regions but cannot allow a bloke in the leafy shires to receive a mobile call in his own living room.
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