After months of campaigning, BT has significantly delayed plans to force customers to switch from physical copper-based landlines to internet-based services following concerns from vulnerable people. 
The news announced by BT today comes after the switch was paused at the end of 2023 after several incidents where vulnerable people found their telecare devices stopped working. Nearly two million people across the UK use personal alarms which rely on their landlines. 
 
BT, which also operates as EE and Plusnet, has confirmed they have abondoned the timeline of completing the national switchover by the end of 2025, and will instead 'aim' to complete the switchover by the end of January 2027. 
 
The telecommunications company said its new timetable followed the introduction of a series of improvements to better protect vulnerable customers and those with additional needs. In a statement by BT's head of security and networks, Howard Watson said: 
 
"The urgency for switching customers onto digital services grows by the day because the 40-year-old analogue landline technology is increasingly fragile. Managing customer migrations from analogue to digital as quickly and smoothly as possible, while making the necessary provisions for those customers with additional needs is critically important.” 
 
BT said it will protect vulnerable customers where it is made aware of them, and it plans to provide “resilient solutions” to those who are dependent on their landline. The measures include providing free battery back-up units and offering hybrid phones which can use both broadband and mobile networks. 
 
Luke Castle, Community Coordinator at the Keeping Digital Foundation, praised the delay but raised concerns around the continued rollout of the switchover: 
 
"After months of campaigining alongside vulnerable people across the country, we are glad that BT have recognised our concerns and have delayed the switchover. However, we've seen first-hand the anxiety and concern the Digital Switchover is causing for residents. We're seeing an increasing number of residents visiting our Digital Cafe services to speak to a volunteer about the Switchover, with many worried about the risks of a powercut and the impact this might have on their personal alarms. 
 
"However, many of these anxieties have come from the media and lack of communication from BT. We've seen many clickbait headlines about vulnerable residents being left without support and unable to call the emergency services in a powercut. Whilst these concerns are real, BT are actively working to support residents who are 'at risk'. 
 
"We understand residents and their anxieties, and feel there is still much more to be done to help communicate changes and what it will mean for their day-to-day lives. Residents are concerned about the potential to be cut off from powercuts, and the additional costs for new phones and other kit to help keep them connected. BT needs to do more to engage with local communities and to truly understand the concerns people have around the switch. 
 
"Whilst the delay to the switchover is a small step in the right direction, it is only a delay of around a year. With 1 in 20 households without internet access, a number that has undoubtedly increased due to the cost-of-living crisis, BT needs to do more to actually define what an 'at risk' customer looks like, and the safeguarding measures they have in place to ensure no one is out of pocket or cut off." 
 
The Keeping Digital Foundation will continue to look out for residents and will work hard to ensure BT are held accountable during and after the switchover. We also urge anyone who is concerned about the switchover to email us, call us, or to visit your nearest Digital Cafe support service. We're here to help. 
 
You can email the Keeping Digital Foundation at support@keepingdigital.org.uk, or can call one of our volunteers on 01904 900127. 

Luke 

Co-Founder and Community Coordinator 
Tagged as: Digital Inclusion
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