37 days from the original outage on 11th August, the BBC today visited Cocking and area to run a story on the loss of the Orange/EE mobile signal and its effect on this rural community. Having been contacted by former Chair of the Parish Council, Frances Russell, Simon Jenkins, a reporter for BBC Radio Sussex arrived just after 7 a.m. to interview Frances and myself, while a South Today camera team arrived some time after 9 a.m. to talk to villagers. Tellingly, it took Simon a long time to upload the interviews via BT broadband, used the landline to speak to his office and had to deploy his satellite dish (see picture) to finish the uploads.
Simon was told that villagers were complaining not just about the prolonged lack of service, but also the lack of communication from Orange (EE) and the great difficulty users are having contacting anyone via their call centres. Callers have experienced long delays of up to 25 minutes before hearing a human voice and there has been a high level of inconsistency in the responses from the company. By comparing notes, villagers have realised that the explanations for the loss of signal and when it might return have been inconsistent and they also know that Orange have offered differing levels of compensation to their customers. At least one customer has already had two months' rental refunded while your Editor and one or two other villagers have been able to persuade EE to supply them with a device to restore the mobile signal in their homes.
These useful devices (called Signal Boxes by EE) plug into domestic Broadband Routers (e.g. BT Home Hubs), link to the EE/Orange network and provide a 3G mobile signal within a range of about 15 metres. This solution has worked well for your Editor in Lamberts Yard and has led to the neighbours 'lurking' outside his kitchen to obtain a signal for themselves.
Later, BBC Radio Sussex interviewed current Parish Council Chair, Richard Marks, who lives only a few hundred yards from the defunct Mobile Mast. Richard said that he is 'lucky' in that from his house on Cocking Hill he occasionally receives a weak signal from distant masts at Midhurst or Milland. He also told the reporter that his Farm Shop business had been adversely affected by the loss of mobile communications because he could not use his card payment system.
The BBC South Today team arrived as promised and covered much of the same ground, but with better pictures. They interviewed Frances attempting to speak to someone at Orange only to be told that there would be a 20 minute delay. They then took shots of the EE Signal Box and the Mast shrouded in mist before visiting Richard Marks on the farm for a final intervew. We now wait to see how much, if any, of the footage will make it to the South Today broadcast this evening and what effect the publicity will have on Orange.