Gordon MP Richard Thomson has welcomed confirmation he has received from BT that they are to pause the roll-out of Digital Voice – the new home phone service that will mean calls are made over broadband, rather than the old analogue Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN).
Concerns have been raised by Mr Thomson and others that the digital system does not provide enough resilience in the event of power cuts such as those experienced during Storm Arwen recently, or in areas where there is poor mobile reception.
In a letter to Mr Thomson, Richard Wainer, Policy and Public Affairs Director at BT Group said:
“We’ve listened to the feedback from our customers and realise we underestimated the impact that this technology upgrade could have for some of them. We understand the concerns of people who live in power cut-prone areas or places with poor mobile reception. They worry that in the event of a power cut, they will not be able to call anyone to get help. This is because the fibre cables used by Digital Voice can’t conduct electricity, whilst the copper lines used by the PSTN are able to power traditional home phones.
“Whilst we have alternatives for this in place, we appreciate that these are not yet as good as they could be for all circumstances. This was thrown into sharp relief during the recent storms when some households had to endure long periods without electricity.”
Welcoming this confirmation, Richard Thomson MP said:
“This is a sensible move on the part of BT. Storm Arwen threw up many challenges due to the length of time some people were left isolated without power. Had there also been no landline communications available then a bad situation would undoubtedly have been made much worse.
“Many of my constituents have felt anxious about the reliability of the telecoms network and how it will manage in the future given recent experiences as a result of the recent storms.
“In particular, those people with telecoms provided through fibre-optic cables must be provided with adequate backup to ensure they have a phone service during a power outage. It is of particular importance that the UK Government and service providers make sure vulnerable people have access to communications.”