BT to End Landline Phones – Millions of Seniors’ Homes at Risk | United Kingdom | New
Coronavirus: millions of retirees will be afraid, according to an expert
As part of BT’s digital switchover, scheduled for 2025, the traditional landline telephone will be phased out in favor of electrically powered digital handsets. The move means households will need Internet access to make calls. However, Jan Shortt, secretary general of the National Pensioners Convention, pointed out a major flaw in the proposals.
She warned: “If there is a power outage, that digital phone line will no longer work – and a potential lifeline for the elderly will suddenly be lost.
“Those who need to make an emergency call or trigger an alarm via a health pendant could be left behind – and unable to call anyone for life-saving assistance. “
As it stands, about six percent of households – which equates to 1.5 million households – do not have internet access, according to Ofcom.
Many retirees do not own a mobile or smartphone
There are also fears that retirees may fall prey to phone scams
People living in these properties will likely need a visit from an engineer to set them up with the new technology, and anyone with older phones may need to purchase a new handset.
However, Ms Shortt warned that millions more do not have cell phones or are unable to use one effectively.
She said: “BT has no idea that many older people don’t want or can’t afford a fancy smartphone – and rely on their landline as a lifeline.
“It is wrong to discriminate against those – mainly the elderly – who are not connected to the Internet.”
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Caroline Abrahams, Director of Age UK, added: “Given that around half of people over the age of 75 are not online, this could be a particular problem for our older citizens.”
Telecommunications providers are obligated to ensure that all households have access to emergency services – although they can do so by providing a mobile phone for free.
Openreach, which operates more of the UK’s wire and cable infrastructure, insists protecting its most vulnerable customers is “a top priority”.
The company plans to install ultra-fast full-fiber broadband in 25 million homes by the end of 2026.
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There are concerns about how emergency services will be contacted during power outages
Not everyone wanted a smartphone, Ms Shortt pointed out
BT’s switchover, which he dubbed Digital Voice, began in 2019, with two million landlines converted to date.
Ofcom guidelines require BT to ensure that customers can contact emergency services in the event of a power outage of more than an hour.
However, it is not known how this will be achieved in the case of anyone who loses access from an internet phone, or who does not have a cell phone or signal.
As an added layer of complication, Ms Abrahams also suggested that the change would result in criminals trying to rip off retirees.
BT offers guarantees on its website
She explained, “We are concerned that the changes will make many older people feel more isolated than they already do.
“Steps must also be taken to ensure that vulnerable people do not fall victim to digital voice scams. “
Advice posted on BT’s website states, “When it comes to the phone service itself, most people are likely to notice little difference.
“Only three percent of UK households have a fixed connection without broadband. Ultimately, everyone will need a broadband connection to make and receive landline phone calls.
However, most people will still be able to use their current landline phones with Voice over Internet protocol. [VoIP] adapter.”
BT adds, “If you don’t have broadband right now, don’t worry. UK communications regulator Ofcom has said providers must offer basic internet connections for phone calls only.
“You won’t have to shell out for a super-fast connection that you don’t intend to use. “
Express.co.uk has contacted BT and Openreach for further details, as well as Age UK.