Following months of outcry by BT subscribers in rural and remote areas, on 29th March the company announced plans to pause the rollout of digital voice services.
The upgrade plans would originally have seen all BT analogue landline phone users converted to new digital voice services delivered by fibre-optic cable. The challenge with digital voice services is that they are reliant on a power supply, which can be problematic in areas susceptible to power cuts, and during times of emergency such as in severe storms when power supplies may be cut for longer periods of time.
The difficulty with digital voice services is that without electricity, you can’t make a phone call using the service, and if you live in an area without mobile phone coverage, that can leave customers without a way to make a call during a power cut – especially problematic if there is a severe storm and official advice is not to travel. Additionally, not all current emergency monitoring solutions such as those used by people who require additional care or monitoring in their homes yet support digital voice services in full.
Older analogue telephone services – those carried by a traditional copper wire – are more resistant to storms because they work even through a power cut. The proposed changes were therefore causing significant concern to those living in more remote areas. There are a number of locations outside of our local towns of Newbury, Thatcham and Hungerford that do not have a reliable mobile phone service, so this is a real issue for local people.
In acknowledging the challenges raised by the proposed changes, Marc Allera, CEO, Consumer division, BT, said in a press release “…we underestimated the disruptive impact this upgrade would have on some of our customers. With hindsight we went too early, before many customers – particularly those who rely more heavily on landlines – understood why this change is necessary and what they needed to do.”
He went on to say “We also recognise we have more work to do on getting better back-up solutions in place for when things disrupt the service like storms and power cuts. We got this part of our programme wrong and for that, we’re sorry”.
You can see the full press release here (external website link): BT Press Release.
We will continue to follow this story at Kennet Radio, and if you have any comments on this story, or if it has already affected you, then please get in touch.