Campaign for decent mobile phone service

Andrew Percy MP and Councillor Liz Redfern in Epworth.
Andrew Percy MP and Councillor Liz Redfern in Epworth.

The Bells is backing Andrew Percy in a bid to improve unfit for purpose mobile phone reception that blights the lives of people across the area.

The Isle MP has lobbied mobile phone companies after angry local residents voiced their need for a better and reliable voice and internet communication for both work and personal use.

Telecommunications giant O2 has said that two masts currently serve 2G coverage to the Isle area.

The company told the MP that there are plans to upgrade the masts to 3G and 4G, a more advanced network protocol capable of much faster internet speeds - but this is not set to happen until the latter part of 2015.

Mr Percy said he is “chasing O2 hard for an earlier date” and has meetings arranged with other companies over the next few weeks.”

The MP has fixed a meeting with Vodafone in early March to discuss their coverage within the Isle, and is currently awaiting detailed responses from Three and Everything Everywhere, the companies that formed following the recent merger of Orange and T-mobile.

All the mobile operators that have been contacted are responsible for the majority of the UK’s mobile network infrastructure, including services from Tesco, Asda and Virgin mobile.

Local resident and chairman of Epworth Colts FC Mark Degnan is just one of many who are keen to see mobile services upgraded.

He said: “There are all kinds of reasons that people rely on using their mobile phones and the internet these days, and the number of blackspots in and around Epworth is a real source of frustration.

“I live, but don’t work in central Epworth so my concerns are purely from a personal and social aspect. There have been occasions when we have needed to contact emergency services from the football field, and have had to work round the reception issues.

“And the problems don’t seem to be linked to one particular provider ... it’s across the board.”

He continued: “You walk around Epworth and see people with mobiles in their hands, trying to get a signal and failing. Everyone gets annoyed. These kits are essential to our way of life these days. I have a daughter I like to keep in touch with while she is out playing with friends, but too often she tells me she couldn’t get a signal to call or text. It’s essential that coverage is improved for the benefit of everyone.”

Mr Percy said: “A number of frustrated residents have contacted me about mobile coverage on the Isle. I have raised their concerns with mobile operators and I’m pleased O2 have already confirmed mast upgrades in the near future, and that Vodafone have agreed to meet with me in March.

“I’ve experienced loss of signal many times myself, I know it can be a real pain in our increasingly connected world where rural residents are still disadvantaged compared to more urban areas.

“I will continue to campaign on this issue and pursue the other mobile network operators.”

It was confirmed at the end of last year that high-speed fibre broadband - a 24-meg service - is on its way to the Isle.

A £5.7 million deal with BT for across Isle of Axholme villages is a slice of a total £9 million for the whole of North Lincolnshire.

Andrew Percy campaigned for the delivery of the service, supported by North Lincolnshire Council. Leader of the Council Liz Redfern voiced her gratitude for his raising the issue with ministers.