Ditchling lane left without internet for two weeks after fibre optic cables cut

A country lane in Ditchling has been without internet access for more than two weeks after someone cut through new fibre optic cables.

Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 6:42 pm

Residents of Underhill Lane lost their connection to the internet at about 10.15am on Friday (May 21), and initially thought it was because of the strong winds.

“There was a general presumption that it was the bad weather,” said resident Demelza Hill, 36, adding that the area is prone to having telephone lines go down.

But, Demelza said, over the next two days dog walkers noticed that there were no lines down or toppled trees.

Demelza Hill points out the damaged cables in Underhill Lane, Ditchling. Picture: Derek Martin Photography, DM21060228a

“Somebody, on three different pylons, has cut through the new fibre optic cables, just out of arms reach,” she said.

This, she added, had resulted in the ‘Beacon Road to Westmeston stretch’ of Underhill Lane being cut off from the internet.

Demelza, a product designer who lives with her partner and their three children, said the incident had disrupted many residents’ lives.

“Everybody on the lane, in various jobs and roles, was just cut out of their meetings, chats and phonecalls,” she said.

“Quite a lot of people on the lane have phone lines that run through the WI-FI as well, so for some of them it was all their communication.”

Demelza said the incident had been especially inconvenient for older residents.

“There are elderly people who can’t get repeat prescriptions or call anyone so it’s a bit like we’ve gone back to lockdown where we’re all trying to help them out,” she said.

Demelza said the incident was ‘odd’ and that this is the first time something like this has happened in her area.
“Generally we have a really good community,” Demelza said.

“The only thing we suffer from is fly-tipping, but obviously that’s not people that live here who are doing that,” she added.
Demelza said several residents had reported the cut cables to both BT and Openreach but said nobody had fixed the problem since May 21.

“I think it’s just unacceptable,” she said, adding that she wanted the problem solved as quickly as possible.

“It’s also not helped by the fact that we’ve waited years to have fibre optic internet and we’ve only had it a month and now this has happened,” she added.

An Openreach spokesperson told this newspaper that repair work had been arranged for Wednesday (June 9) and that they expected to complete it by 6pm on the day.

“Our network just outside Ditchling was damaged on 21 May and we attended the site and made it safe,” said the spokesperson.

“We’ve been waiting for traffic management approval in order to get the repair work done safely.”

“We understand how frustrating this must be for anyone who is affected and we’re really sorry that it’s taken longer than we’d like to repair,” the spokesperson added.

“We encourage anyone experiencing any disruption with their phone or broadband service to report it to their service provider who will then inform us.”

Sussex Police said they were called at about 12.20pm on Monday (May 24) with a report of ‘damage caused to cabling on Underhill Lane, Ditchling’.

“It is believed the cables were cut on the morning of Friday 21 May,” said a police spokesperson.

“No viable lines of enquiry have been identified and the matter has been filed pending any further information coming to light,” they added.

Anyone who has any information can report it to police online, via www.sussex.police.uk, quoting serial 533 of 24/05.