Following Saturday’s public meeting in Wildhern Village Hall (see news item June 10th), this is the
text of Sir George’s letter to Sir Christopher Bland.
12 June 2006
On Saturday, I met many of our mutual neighbours at a well-attended meeting at Wildhern Village Hall. At the end, I promised them I would write to you about the problems they face, as a result of the local telephone exchange not being enabled by BT.
The Hatherden exchange, which serves Hatherden, Wildhern, parts of Tangley and Charlton Down, is the only exchange in my constituency which has not been enabled. After a review of costs for Marten and Privett, I gather these will be the only villages in Hampshire whose exchange has not been enabled.
As you will know, these villages contain many professional people who work, in part, from home. They were understandably disappointed at the BT decision, as it left them at a competitive disadvantage with some 96% of the population.
When BT decided to leave this exchange un-enabled, Hampshire County Council tried to fill the gap and invited tenders to bring broadband to the area. The tender was won by a wireless based system provided by VIB. This, to put it mildly, has not been a success.
The attached note records what happened at the public meeting I referred to, as well as giving more of the background. It explains why the status quo is deeply unsatisfactory and why feelings locally are running high.
I have been in fairly regular contact with Suzanne Masterton, BT’s Public Affairs Manager, who liaises with MP’s. She could not have been more helpful, but her last letter to me, dated May 9th, says “the only way that BT can get involved again is if market failure is again shown to exist and a new tender is issued by HCC.” But this is not the case; HCC confirmed at the meeting that there is nothing to stop BT enabling the exchange and providing a service in parallel to VIB.
I want to take this debate forward, and wonder if you would be good enough to let me know what the cost is of enabling the exchange? If Hatherden School is to have broadband anyway to meet Government targets, this may have an impact on the costs. In a nutshell, what are the conditions that need to be met for BT to enable the exchange and bring this part of the county into the 21st century?