Boxford launch of petition to improve mobile phone signals in rural areas
PUBLISHED: 06:00 06 February 2016
Improving mobile phone signals in rural Suffolk could be a matter of “life and death”.
That was the warning at the launch of a campaign urging the Government to bring forward a new round of funding to support new mobile phone masts in the county’s worst affected ‘not-spots’.
The issue of poor coverage - particularly 3G signals which are vital for smartphone internet access - has long been an issue in the county, causing frustration among individual users and businesses.
Dozens of people turned out yesterday to show their support for the petition, which was launched in Boxford by South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge.
Among them was Diana McCorkell of Groton, whose 89-year-old husband Patrick is very sick with Alzheimer’s.
Mrs McCorkell, 79, who also has a disability herself, described a recent incident when her husband had slipped from the bed and she was unable to lift him from the floor. Due to the lack of mobile signal, she was unable to call the emergency services.
“It was absolutely horrible,” Mrs McCorkell said. “We were both on the floor – I was unable to leave Patrick and wasn’t in a position to help him.
“I always carry my mobile phone but when I went to ring for help, I had no reception.
“I had to wait for someone to call in at the house in order to raise the alarm and in the meantime I just had to watch my husband’s health deteriorate.
“I don’t think people realise that this really is a life and death situation in a lot of cases. I was dependent on my mobile and the signal let me down.
“There are hundreds of people in similar situations in this area but it’s not until you are in a devastating situation that it brings it home to you.”
She added: “I am delighted that our MP is running a petition and campaign to try and improve the situation.”
Alongside the campaign, Mr Cartlidge will be lobbying Ministers and the Chancellor in Parliament. Under the current Mobile Infrastructure Project, which ends in March, the Government has made funds available to improve mobile telephone infrastructure in the worst affected parts of the country.
However, it is understood that by next month, only four masts will have been completed in Suffolk in four years - at Witnesham, Rattlesden, Bildeston and Coddenham.
Mr Cartlidge said: “Lots of communities in this area have poor mobile signals particularly in the more rural areas and the priority is to target all of our worst affected villages.
“The only way we can have signal in a genuine ‘not spot’ is through Government subsidy or commercial opportunity, so our first priority is to lobby Government so another round of funding can be brought forward.
“We also need to have local support in these areas, with a suitable site for a mast and planning applications ready.
“We want people to support the campaign and if it’s obvious that another part of the community is a serious ‘not spot’ then we will try to push for masts in those areas too.”
A copy of the petition has been sent to all of the parish councils in the area and constituents can sign by contacting their local council. An e-petition is available at www.jamescartlidge.com/campaigns/improved-mobile-telephone-signal-south-suffolk-petition