Having spoken to many people in the area, the project was keen to hear from young people who still live in the area. Sam Lambert – 21 – came to our rescue. Sam tells us what it is like living in the ‘dale.
‘I have lived here all my life’ Sam says, ‘we own a third generation livestock farm’. Unlike his brother, Sam has branched out and works at an architectural firm in Stokesley. ‘I do about a 100mile round trip a day’ he says ‘that’s only because there is no work nearer. There is very little prosperity apart from farming here’.
Currently completing a University apprenticeship with an architectural company. The industry is heavily swaying towards working from home environments either part time or full time however, there is a limiting factor - the digital connectivity in the area. ‘The network coverage doesn’t support what I am doing’ says Sam. ‘and so I can’t realistically and effectively work from home.’
‘My mum wanted to work from home a few years ago and we got an engineer out to check our speeds’ he says ‘he basically told us it wasn’t possible’. His mum works in Leyburn but if Sam wants to Work from home in the area, he needs to be able to rely on fast and robust connections.
‘In my job, I work in a team of four or five people’ Sam says ‘we work on the same 3D design and when we work from home, we are all working collaboratively on the same designs’. This means that Sam needs fast connections to work in real time with his other colleagues. If I re-design part of a building, it links back to a local server which is what my team members link back to as well but that’s where the problem is – the network isn’t good enough, so if I modify something in real time, my colleagues drawings may not update to see these modifications which ultimately causes problems and errors which could be avoided with a super-fast connection. This means that during Covid - when the Government have been telling people to work from home - Sam has been forced to work in the office – at least when he is working on designs. ‘It takes me 30 seconds to access a drawing in the office, at home; it can take 40minutes to open the same drawing or even may not open at all.
A 5G connection would offer faster speeds meaning little or no buffering and coping with a large amount of people connecting at one time. Sam says ‘technology is always evolving and updating’, yet for rural areas WIFI is stuck back in the noughties when it was put in – ‘I think we got broadband in the early 2000s; what we had then was fine for what we needed it for’ Sam says.
Things have moved on. ‘It took 110hours to do an update on my work computer recently’ Sam says. Yet, people in rural areas shouldn’t be left with this only option ‘it’s dangerous – when computers are on for that long it heats up’ Sam says, yet this is many people’s only option in rural communities.
Nevertheless, Sam wants to stay at least in the short time but ‘most of my friends have moved away. People get to 16/17 and want more’ he says. Most have moved into towns and cities either for jobs or university and Sam says ‘they won’t move back. They have everything on their doorstep, there is no need to’. However, Sam also thinks that ‘the internet speeds encourage residents to leave the dale for more prosperous online working without the limitations of poor WIFI’. Driving a lot of working age people away from the area.
Most residents here are of retirement age, they move here for the quiet life – they may not need or want connectivity. [The] bottom line is there are still people trying to work and prosper and a 5G network would be a massive benefit.
Sam continues ‘it would entice younger people and younger families to move back into the ‘dale and start their own business or working from home’. This sentiment is backed by a recent survey (2020) undertaken by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) who found that 1 in 2 young people wanted to swap the city for the countryside yet, digital connectivity and the ability to do an existing job from the new location was key to the move.
According to Sam, 5G would also allow the ‘dale to diversify – not only by bringing people to the area or allowing current residents to develop side businesses’. Not only this, but it would, also, support current business ‘Coverdale is known for its dominant farming communities which have been developed through generations of farming’ he says. However, due to the WIFI speeds and lack of network across the area, it is becoming increasingly difficult. ‘5G would allow us to use GPS automated tractor systems, live camera feeds in buildings as well as scanning livestock to upload straight into a database’. ‘The opportunities are endless making jobs easier, more efficient and making lives more prosperous’ Sam says. A sentiment, which the project has heard from others within the ‘dale.
However, 5G would also enable contact as it offers a hybrid of both mobile and broadband via the possibility of reaching areas where fixed digital connectivity cannot.
Currently, Sam says ‘if we get a tractor stuck out on the moor or roll a quad bike on top of ourselves there is currently no way of getting help’ because there is no mobile signal or at the very least its intermittent. Using a wireless network means residents and visitors could connect either via 5G enabled phones – which are becoming more readily available - or via MIFI devices which allow people to link to networks. In an area, which has two of the highest risk, industries – farming and racehorse training – people should have the opportunity to connect for protection and safety.
5G offers communities like this a viable solution – where difficult terrain prevents or severely hinders the laying of fixed digital wires.