Retirees and the vulnerable will be isolated as BT scraps traditional cell phones for digital phones.
Retirement groups and charities are concerned that millions of households will be left without a “potential lifeline”.
They shared fear that those who rely on traditional landline phones to communicate will be forgotten. ChronikLive reports.
Read more: Who pays social assistance? Government adopts controversial amendment
The digital transition will take effect in 2025 and BT will swap traditional handsets for digital phones that run on electricity and require the internet to function.
The Secretary General of the National Pensioners Convention Jan Shortt said: “In the event of a power failure, this digital telephone 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 raise an alarm via a health trailer could be stranded – unable to call someone for life-saving help.”
Ofcom estimates that around six percent of households do not have access to the Internet, which corresponds to around 1.5 million households.
These people may need to buy a new handset and visit technicians to set them up with their new kit.
Ms. Shortt added, “Little BT has a clue that a lot of older people don’t want a fancy smartphone or can’t afford one – and rely on their landline as a lifeline. It is wrong to discriminate against those – especially the elderly – who are not wired “on the Internet.”
Age UK Director Caroline Abrahams said: “Given that around half of older people over 75 are not online, this could be a particular problem for our oldest citizens.”
According to Ofcom, telecommunications providers are obliged to ensure that households without internet or mobile phones have access to the emergency services.
This could be achieved by providing a free mobile phone to customers.
While the government pushed through the switch to digital television back in 2012, this phone switch is to be driven by the telecommunications industry.
Most of the UK’s wire and cable infrastructure is operated by Openreach, which it claims has been working with companies for months to make sure they are prepared.
Openreach has emphasized that protecting vulnerable customers is an “absolute priority” for the company.
BT’s move to digital voice began two years ago and two million landline lines have been converted to date.
29 million apartments are to be converted by the end of 2025.
Ofcom’s policy states that BT must ensure that customers can contact emergency services in the event of a power outage lasting more than an hour.
How this will be possible with a digital phone that relies on the Internet or electricity is unclear.
BT’s transition to the Digital Voice brand began two years ago and has so far converted two million landlines.
Age UK said it was concerned that criminals could use the counter to exploit the elderly.
Caroline Abrahams said: “We are concerned that the changes may make many older people feel more isolated than they already do. Steps must also be taken to ensure that those in need of protection do not fall victim to digital language scams. “
Switching should be straightforward for those who already have the internet at home. But for those who don’t, engineers need to come over to install “digital voice” sockets in your home.
Stay up to date with the latest news with our daily newsletter .
BT says this will be free and customers shouldn’t expect price increases due to the change.
Those who already have internet service will see the landline fee included in their total bill, whether they are with BT or a competitor.
Anyone who does not use the Internet and only wants a landline connection will be charged separately and no longer pay.