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Two Lochaber households have had no phones for more than three weeks, with no prospect of the fault being fixed for at least another week.
David Hepburn of Torlundy’s North Steadings has also had no internet since Friday February 10. Mr Hepburn’s neighbour Christina Stewart has also been affected.
‘I’m not quite as bad as David. I have Infinity so I have had intermittent internet but no phone,’ she said.
They were both told on several occasions by different BT staff that the problem would be resolved but the fault has persisted.
Mrs Stewart: said: ‘It’s shocking. We’ve spoken to so many people within BT. You get one story from one and one story from another.’
Mr Hepburn added: ‘The problem is all the conflicting stories. You never speak to the same person twice.’
Mrs Stewart was told BT was waiting for planning permission from the local authority to dig up cables as a 270m stretch of cabling had to be renewed to solve the problem.
Mr Hepburn said: ‘It took them two weeks to tell us what the problem was. If BT knew this why did they not tell us instead of constantly telling us we would have internet and phone lines within 24 hours? That’s why we’re so frustrated.’
A spokesperson for Highland Council told The Oban Times: ‘BT do not need to get permission from the local council to do work.’
BT responded: ‘We’re sorry for any confusion. While consent from the relevant roads authority is usually required for traffic management and roadworks, that was not the case/cause of any delay on this occasion.’
Both neighbours have health conditions making a reliable phone and internet connection all the more vital. And although they have had phone calls redirected to their mobiles, both say they do not get particularly strong or reliable signal in their homes which makes matters more difficult.
‘The internet is a lifeline for us,’ said Mr Hepburn.
Mr Hepburn brought the situation to the attention of Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch.
Miss Forbes said: ‘I contacted BT within hours of learning about these difficulties and they have promised to provide myself and Mr Hepburn with an update on the work in the next few days.
‘Although I understand underground cabling work is required, I am urging BT to do everything in its power to resolve this as quickly as possible.
‘To expect Mr Hepburn to be without phone and broadband for a number of weeks is completely unacceptable.’
While all of this has been going on Mr Hepburn received a letter from BT informing him their prices were going up.
On Monday this week, Mrs Stewart was contacted by a BT executive who said that following political and media attention work would start the following day. She was told the repair work should be completed by tomorrow (Friday March 3).
That same Monday, a spokesperson for Openreach, a subsidiary of BT responsible for pipes and telephone cables, told The Oban Times: ‘Following essential maintenance on underground cables in Fort William, a cable fault was identified which requires traffic management and night-time working to safely carry out the repair work.
‘Openreach engineers plan to visit the site tonight and will try to repair the damage as soon as possible. Anyone with a fault should report this to their service provider who may be able to arrange incoming call diverts to a mobile, for example. We’re sorry for any inconvenience.’
However, on Tuesday morning Mrs Hepburn received another phone call and a text to say the work had been rescheduled and would not start until Monday March 6.