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COLUMNIST [Newcastle Journal (England)]
[July 04, 2014]

COLUMNIST [Newcastle Journal (England)]

(Newcastle Journal (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) GIVEN an inch or two of rain over the year and a week or three of fine weather, Farmer Morebottle grows a mean tattie. But his claim to fame as an internet geek is weak.

"Is your broadband doing anything funny?", he phoned to ask (a mere eight days after Tillside's access to international telecommunications had gone down the gurgler for the second time in less than two years).

"Only I can't get online to play Candy Crush Saga," whined this privately-educated, Times-reading son of the soil.

Morebottle is the man who pilots his shiny new machinery by satnav while reading Dante in the original, mediaeval Italian on his iPad, setting the screen aside only to turn his tractor at the end of the field.

But, while his fancy schooling and agricultural college taught him the ins and outs of arable farming, it appears to have taught him diddly-squat about IT.

"Many of us," I responded huffi-ly, "have been offline since a week last Tuesday. Me, Etal Castle, Alan Green the furniture maker ... AND Lord Joicey!", I heard myself shouting, to emphasise the fine company I keep.

"Haven't you noticed that Godzone's gone silent and Googleless?" After a long pause, Morebottle sighed and mumbled apologetically:"Well, I haven't checked out Candy Crush for a while ..." It's been 10 days since an unknown number of broadband users across Godzone lost the internet. My system was restored after "only" four days of failing to persuade my internet service provide (ISP) that the problem was widespread (only ISPs can, thanks to an agreed protocol, prod BT to check for faults at the local exchange); as I write this column, many others, Oor Noble Laird at Etal Manor included, are STILL offline.

And up here in far north Northumberland it has ramifications city folk cannot imagine. George the Piper from Horncliffe, for instance: "No signal from Orange (spit-spit) for four days and their service includes my partner Kath's phone and, as you know, Dave, Kath has MS: if she falls when I'm away she needs the phone to text or call me - it could be a matter of life or death." This from another friend, responding to the special edition I published in my e-newspaper, The Clarion: "We are completely at the mercy of the ISPs who act as gate keepers.

"No matter how many times I told TalkTalk (our ISP, but not for much longer!) that the fault was affecting many people and must be at the exchange, they did not listen to me, the customer, paying sweetly for a very poor service.

"Our broadband speed has dropped dramatically in recent months.

"My wife and I both run businesses and the lack of broadband has a massive impact through disrupted communication with customers, inability to order spare parts or stock, lack of access to banking and no access to onlineonly government services like VAT and PAYE reporting - not to mention hours of wasted time." Me, Etal Castle, Alan Green the furniture " The hero of the hour has been Iain Miller, who set aside bread-anbutter work with his Borders computer consultancy, Kemibond, to negotiate with BT on behalf of clients and nonclients and eventually getting the message across that there really WAS a widespread problem. The message needs to go wider than BT.

maker ...

AND Lord Joicey! The self-regulated arrangement between ISPs and BT is not working. Government needs to know.

A better action plan must be put in place before we are left stranded for a third time.

My letter to Godzone's MP, Sir Alan Beith, is already in the post.

After all, you wouldn't trust email up here, would you? SCOTTISH wunderkind Ryan Gauld so reminded Sporting Lisbon scouts of the world's best footballer, Lionel Messi, that they signed him and slapped a Pounds 48m price tag on him at just 18 years of age.

Former Scottish teammates nicknamed the diminutive Dundee United star "Mini Messi" ... shouldn't that be Mini NESSIE? Me, Etal Castle, Alan Green the furniture maker ... AND Lord Joicey! (c) 2014 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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