Moves to switch phones from landlines to digital put on hold

Moves to switch customers to broadband landlines have been paused after concerns by rural residents that power cuts might lead to them being unable to contact emergency services.

Craig Williams, Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire, has welcomed the decision by communication providers to put on hold the Digital Voice switch-over for customers who do not want to move to broadband landlines straight away.

The Digital Voice programme is a nationwide scheme that will see all landlines moved away from the use of copper wire to fibre cables because the existing network has become antiquated and increasingly unreliable.

Many rural customers, however, have been concerned that use of fibre cables might lead to them losing the service in the event of a power cut.

They have also said that, coupled with poor mobile coverage in some areas, they might be left without access to emergency services during power outages.

Although some telecoms providers give out battery packs for such events, these have limited capacity of not much longer than an hour.

People were also concerned about the possible loss of their landline in the event of outages.

Those without a broadband connection to their home were also said to be confused as to how their landline would be provided in the event of a switch-over.

Mr Williams reported the concerns to telecoms providers and the UK Government to seek assurances that people's landline service would be protected.

Now all further Digital Voice switch-overs are being paused for customers who do not want to move to the new technology straight away.

Telecoms providers have said that this move will allow time to get products in place to provide customers with more resilient connectivity including the use of longer-lasting battery packs, home mobile landlines for those without broadband and hybrid home phones for people not comfortable using a mobile, but which can connect via the mobile network if a fixed connection is not available.

Mr Williams said: "I am very pleased that telecoms providers have reacted to the concerns raised by many of my constituents within Montgomeryshire, in pausing all further Digital Voice switch-overs until the technology is sufficiently robust.

"Recent storms have highlighted the need to have resilient connectivity in the event of extreme weather, and rural localities are unfortunately much more exposed to challenges such as prolonged power cuts and unreliable broadband and mobile service than urban areas.

"The current network is becoming increasingly antiquated and difficult to maintain, so the need to switch over to digital services is very real.

"I am, therefore, glad that the UK Government and the industry have enacted this pause, to enable improved technology to be available for those who require it when they do eventually make the switch to digital."

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