AN angry couple say their rural post office business has been plunged into chaos after its vital broadband service was cut off.
Wendy and Les Telfer s post office in the village of Bellingham, Northumberland, has been out of service for 10 days because of the computer glitch.
They say they lost their business connection after BT engineers installed a new broadband service in the tenanted flat above the combined post office and newsagent s shop in Parkside Place.
This has meant the Post Office s Horizon IT system which is used for a wide range of automated services and transactions has been down since Monday, December 17. Mr and Mrs Telfer have been unable to pay out pensions or benefits, accept council tax payments and provide other services which rely on the broadband connection.
They say it has caused major problems for elderly residents and other local people, both in the village itself and in surrounding hamlets which rely on the Bellingham post office.
Yesterday Mr Telfer, 59, said: It is beyond belief that BT can leave a village, and outlying places like Falstone, Kielder and Greenhaugh, like this for 10 days. The whole place is up in arms about it.
Mrs Telfer, 59, who has been sub-postmistress since 2010, said: This has caused absolute chaos for us and virtually the only thing I have been able to do since December 17 is sell people stamps.
The couple say the problem arose after BT installed broadband in the flat above their shop.
They say they were assured by BT that the connection would not affect the post office s broadband line.
However, its computers started to slow down and the service was lost completely on December 17. Mr Telfer said: BT sent an engineer out the next day and put a new phone line into the flat, but didn t re-connect our broadband to the post office. We have been trying ever since to get something done, but we still have no idea when we will be back on.
Without a broadband connection to run the computerised system there is no post office.
We have lost a lot of business as a result of this, and have even had to lend a few people money out of our own pockets.
Mrs Telfer said: We need broadband to do everything on the post office side of things, so all I can do is serve customers stamps while the system is off.
It is literally shut down and quite a few people have not been able to pay their bills or get their pensions.
A lot of elderly people rely on the post office because they don t have bank accounts.
I ve lost a lot of business and I m not getting paid either because of this.
We are just waiting on BT to put things right, and we re trying to hurry things up because it s ridiculous.
Last night a BT spokesman said: We are investigating this issue and seeking to resolve it within the next 24 hours.
A campaign urging residents to register support for a better broadband service across East Sussex has been launched this week.
Go e-sussex is an initiative led by East Sussex County Council to give the county access to faster, more reliable broadband. Currently only three per cent of homes and businesses in the county have access to high-speed broadband (24Mbps and over) compared with 58 per cent nationally, making it one of the poorest served areas in the country. With the campaign, the council is hoping people who are disadvantaged by slow or lack of broadband access will sign up.
County council chairman Chris Dowling and cllr David Rogers visited Harwood King Fine Art Studios in Newhaven for the launch. Cllr Rogers said: Newhaven is an important industrial and employment area in East Sussex with many types of businesses, particularly manufacturing. These businesses need superfast broadband so they can compete on a level playing field with those in other parts of the world.
Harwood King owner Quentin Harwood said: We re in an industrial area of East Sussex, so we should have a decent broadband service. Cllr Dowling, added: I call on everyone working and living in East Sussex to show their support as we need significant numbers of registrations to attract investment from potential broadband suppliers in the county. The council secured funding to work with a telecoms partner to install the necessary infrastructure across the county.
However, it is too costly for these companies to invest unless they know there is a strong demand for superfast broadband. The focal point is a website where people can find out more about broadband in their area and register demand for a faster service. Registering your interest does not mean you will have to subscribe to the service when it is launched, but it will help everyone in East Sussex receive faster broadband.
Visit www.goesussex.co.uk or phone 01273 335991 for a paper copy.
Faster broadband is now available to almost 80,000 more homes and businesses in Scotland, including around 1,650 in Kinghorn and almost 3,000 in Anstruther, BT announced today.
The two Fife towns are among the latest to benefit from upgrades as part of the roll-out of BT s next generation broadband service delivered over copper lines. A full list of the 24 upgraded locations is below.
It includes seven towns in the north of Scotland Alness, Dingwall, Invergordon, Tain, Thurso, Lerwick and Kirkwall which have been upgraded as part of a wider 8m investment programme to improve links in the Highlands & Islands.
The BT investment will make available download speeds of up to 20 megabits per second (Mbps) more than double the fastest speed previously available from BT.
The new service is now accessible to around 1.7 million Scottish premises and is available on an open, wholesale basis to all companies providing broadband*.
It takes the number of homes and businesses across the country able to access the faster broadband to around 78 per cent.
Councillor Kay Carrington, Fife Council s executive member for Business, Enterprise, Economy & Planning, said: This further investment is great news for residents and especially the businesses in Kinghorn, Anstruther and Fife.
It s important that our communities benefit from the roll-out of faster broadband, through the upgrade of BT s copper network. Businesses need access to the latest broadband technology to stay competitive in the market place.
I look forward to seeing this programme of investment rolled out to all of our communities in Fife at the earliest opportunity.
Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities, said: Broadband, just like roads and railways, is a vital part of Scotland s infrastructure.
I very much welcome this latest announcement from BT.
It is essential that households and businesses everywhere in Scotland have access to high-speed connectivity to enable our economy to thrive.
Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, said: Increasingly, broadband is an essential part of everyday life, whether you re Christmas shopping online, sharing photographs and videos with the family, working in an office or as a homeworker, improving your education or just wanting to download a film or programme online.
It has the power to transform every aspect of our lives and is a vital part of ensuring the future prosperity of communities across Scotland.
This investment in the copper network is in addition to BT s 2.5 billion roll-out of fibre-based broadband which will bring even faster speeds to around two-thirds of UK premises during Spring 2014.
BT Scotland is also seeking to work in partnership with the Scottish Government and its agencies to extend fibre broadband to the remaining parts of the country that are harder to reach.