The announcement that BT was planning to switch off landlines, its public switch telephone networked (PSTN), by 2025 has not gone down well with it’s customers.
BT started removing copper wire in 2021 so more than 2 million homes are now without a landline. The rollout started last year and and average 160,000 customers per month forced to give up their landlines.
The disruption caused by storms Arwen and Eunice saw many people unable to call 999 for assistance or get help from family and friends, due to the power outage, making fibre optic telephone lines effectively useless.
Big business all share the view that services should move to digital technology, without doing their research.
- There are 1.5 million households in the UK without internet access.
- 1 in 20 do not own a mobile phone.
Rural areas insufficient Wi-Fi networks
Many people in rural areas do not have Wi-Fi and many do not have mobile phones. Mobile phones need to be charged, so what if the the power goes out? Where are we then?
We have BT fibre optic but last month our Wi-Fi dropped out for about 12 hours. Without a landline we are unreachable.
According to reports, elderly people using health alarms were unable to contact emergency services following a fall or stroke. Many of the health alarm systems are connected to landline systems.
“a devastating time for those that depend on their landlines as a real lifeline”
Many old alarm systems will cease to operate once the landline has been removed, replacing existing alarm systems will come at an incredible cost.
Half a million BT customers are estimated to have Alarm systems connected to landlines.
Rural Campaigners voiced their concerns
Campaigners at Countryside Alliance raised their concerns about those living in rural and isolated areas being left very vulnerable and unable to call emergency services.
Sarah Lee, Countryside Alliance’s director of policy, said:
“The bleak reality for too many living in rural areas is they are not yet in a position to move over to digital to carry out every day functions, even if they wanted to.”
“We have been clear that those who live and work in the countryside must not be subject to a communications blackout and are pleased to see that BT has listened to the concerns of many of its customers.
“We welcome any move to bring the countryside in line with the 21st digital century, recognising the importance this will have in eventually making life better for rural people”.
New digital voice system
All BT customers are eligible to a free digital voice adapter to switch to the new system, if you need more than one they are at price of £14.98 each.
Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds says:
“It is extremely concerning to hear reports of customers cut off from their landline, particularly for older and vulnerable ones who rely on that service to contact relatives or get medical attention.”
Caroline Abrahams, director at charity Age UK, says:
“We must also not assume that every older person has the same access to technology and mobile phones.”
BT have acknowledged that they rolled out the project too early having under estimated the impact the change would have. BT are working on solutions such as hybrid phones that can switch to a network with longer lasting battery back up systems.
Customers can buy BT battery back-up units to provide them with enough power and internet to use the phone for an hour.
The project is on hold and will continue to be rolled out once backup solutions are in place for storms and power cuts. Many big businesses want us all to rely on the internet but I feel this is a dangerous road to go down, do we have endless access to energy?
Green energy such as solar and wind energy is growing at a slow pace and I fear with more storms will come more issues with Wi-Fi and networks.
“It is, in short, a necessary upgrade to customers’ phones in their homes that will bring long term benefits and a service fit for the future.”
“However, we underestimated the disruptive impact this upgrade would have on some of our customers. With hindsight we went too early, before many customers – particularly those who rely more heavily on landlines – understood why this change is necessary and what they needed to do.”
“We also recognise we have more work to do on getting better back-up solutions in place for when things disrupt the service like storms and power cuts.”
“We got this part of our programme wrong and for that, we’re sorry.”