Sat. Apr 20th, 2024
alert-–-plan-to-rip-up-landlines-could-be-delayed-by-two-years-amid-fears-the-switch-to-a-digital-network-is-putting-the-elderly-and-vulnerable-at-riskAlert – Plan to rip up landlines could be delayed by two years amid fears the switch to a digital network is putting the elderly and vulnerable at risk

The rollout of digital phone lines could be delayed by up to two years over fears it is putting the elderly and vulnerable at risk.

Telecoms companies are currently switching millions of households from traditional landlines to a digital network that relies on the internet.

But BT and Virgin Media O2 recently confirmed they were pausing the project after a number of ‘serious incidents’ in which it caused vital telecare emergency alarms, used by the elderly and disabled, to fail. The Government, which had set an ambitious target for a full rollout by the end of 2025, is understood to be in discussions over a new timeline.

However, the process could be delayed by up to two years for some vulnerable people, sources have told the Daily Telegraph.

In December the Government was alerted to cases in which the changeover had stopped telecare devices working, particularly those in rural and isolated areas.

The rollout of digital phone lines could be delayed by up to two years over fears it is putting the elderly and vulnerable at risk (Stock Photo)

The rollout of digital phone lines could be delayed by up to two years over fears it is putting the elderly and vulnerable at risk (Stock Photo)

BT and Virgin Media O2 recently confirmed they were pausing a project switching households from traditional landlines to a digital network after a number of ‘serious incidents’ in which it caused telecare emergency alarms, used by the elderly and disabled, to fail (Stock Photo)

Around 1.8million elderly and disabled people rely on the alarms, which are worn around the neck or wrist and automatically call a response centre over the landline in a health emergency.

When the phone lines need internet signal, telecare systems will simply stop working if coverage drops. In contrast, traditional copper phone lines typically continue to work even in power cuts.

Following the reports, telecoms providers – including Sky and TalkTalk – were summoned to Westminster where they ‘committed to concrete measures to protect vulnerable households’.

The Government said all providers had agreed ‘to not forcibly move customers on to the new network unless they are fully confident they will be protected’.

Virgin Media, which initially paused the rollout, is reportedly restarting the process in the next few weeks on a voluntary basis for non-vulnerable people.

BT, which also partially froze the rollout, has previously said customers would not be switched ‘until they tell us they are ready’.

The company, which is responsible for switching 10million lines, said it would do so only once it had confirmed the healthcare devices work on the new system.

Around 1.8million elderly and disabled people rely on the alarms, which are worn around the neck or wrist and automatically call a response centre over the landline in a health emergency (Stock Photo)

Around 1.8million elderly and disabled people rely on the alarms, which are worn around the neck or wrist and automatically call a response centre over the landline in a health emergency (Stock Photo)

BT, which also partially froze the rollout, has previously said customers would not be switched ‘until they tell us they are ready’ (Stock Photo)

A BT spokesman said: ‘We are working to minimise any delays, as the switch to digital landlines is a necessity given the increasing fragility of the analogue network.’

The Government is said to be in talks with telecare companies about how they can help customers through the transition.

A spokesman for the Department for Science said: ‘The UK Government has no formal role in administering the switchover … but we continue to engage with the industry to ensure vulnerable customers are protected.’