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BT set to axe landline phones – millions of elderly households at risk | UK | News

Coronavirus: Experts say millions of retirees will be afraid

As part of BT’s digital transformation, scheduled for 2025, the traditional landline phone will be scrapped in favor of digital, plug-in phones. This move will mean that families will need to have access to the Internet to make calls. However, Jan Short, General Secretary of the National Pensioners Conference, highlighted a major flaw in the proposals.

“If the power goes out, that digital phone line will not work – and it will suddenly lose the potential lifeline of the elderly,” she warned.

“Those who need to make an emergency call or set off an alarm via a health collar can be left stranded — and unable to contact anyone to request life-saving support.”

According to Ofcom, nearly six percent of households – the equivalent of 1.5 million homes – lack access to the Internet.

Many retirees do not have mobile phones or smart phones (Image: Getty)

Retirees in the United Kingdom

There are also concerns that retirees may fall prey to telephone scams (Image: Getty)

The people who live in these properties will likely need an engineer to visit in order to prepare them with the new technology, and anyone with old phones may have to buy a new one.

However, Short has warned millions of others that they either do not have a mobile phone, or are unable to use one effectively.

“BT has no idea that many seniors don’t want or can’t afford a luxury smartphone – and rely on their land line as their lifeline,” she said.

“It is wrong to discriminate against those – mainly elderly people – who do not have access to the Internet.”

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Boris Johnson Openreach Mark Rainbow

Boris Johnson and Mark Rainbow from Openreach at a training center in Bolton (Image: Getty)

“Given that around half of seniors over the age of 75 are not online, this could be a particular problem for our older citizens,” added Caroline Abrahams, Director of Age UK.

Communications providers are obligated to make sure that all families have access to emergency services – although they can achieve this by providing a free mobile phone.

Openreach, which operates more wire and cable infrastructure in Britain, insists that protecting its most vulnerable customers is an “absolute priority”.

The company plans to install ultra-high-speed full-fiber broadband in 25 million households by the end of 2026.

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retired ambulances

There are concerns about how to contact emergency services during a power outage (Image: Getty)

digital smartphone

Not everyone wants a smartphone, Ms Short points out (Image: Getty)

The shift to BT, dubbed Digital Voice, began in 2019, with two million landlines converted so far.

Ofcom’s guidelines require BT to ensure that customers can contact emergency services in the event of a power outage lasting more than an hour.

However, it is not clear how this will be achieved in the event that anyone loses access from the Internet phone, or does not have a mobile phone or signal.

As an added layer of complexity, Abrahams also suggested that the change could lead to criminals attempting to defraud retirees.


BT makes guarantees on its website (Image: Getty)

She explained: “We are concerned that the changes may make many older adults feel more isolated than they already do.

“Steps must also be taken to ensure that vulnerable people do not fall victim to any digital audio fraud.”

The advice posted on the BT website states: “When it comes to actual phone service, most people will likely notice little difference.

Only three per cent of households in the UK have a terrestrial connection without broadband. Ultimately, everyone will need a broadband connection to make and receive phone calls.

However, most people will be able to continue using their existing landline phones with VoIP [VoIP] Electric switch.”

BT adds: “If you don’t currently have broadband, don’t worry. The UK’s telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has said providers should only offer basic internet connections for phone calls.

“You don’t need to disconnect to get a super-fast connection you don’t intend to use.”

Express.co.uk contact BT and Openreach for more details, as well as Age UK.

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