Your old landline is being switched off but controversial change ‘simply is not working’

UK landlines have been running on copper networks for decades but the old system is being switched off in favour of new internet technologies. The country’s phone companies are in the process of switching their customers to new digital landlines, with everyone scheduled to be on the new system by 2025.

But worries remain that the change to digital landlines could leave some people isolated or without a phone. Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael raised the issue in the House of Commons on Wednesday, saying the switch over “simply is not working”.

“It is apparent from the communications that I have with the industry and my constituents that the private companies are focusing on what matters to them rather than the needs and wishes of their customers and the communities we are elected to serve,” Carmichael said.

A problem with digital landlines is that they will not work in a power cut because they rely on a broadband connection, unlike the old landlines that work even when the power is down. As part of the switch, phone companies need to ensure every landline customer has broadband access and a router installed in their home.

But Carmichael says his constituency of Shetland and Orkney struggle with regular power cuts, sometimes for up to six days – which would render digital landlines unusable.

“Having a telephone line that we can plug in to the socket at the wall is very often the only means of communication left to people in such circumstances,” he said, arguing the issue is being ignored because larger cities such as London rarely have such disruptive power cuts.

BT has said it may provide battery packs to customers who require extra support, which would give power to digital landlines for a short time during a power outage.

Carmichael also questioned BT’s advice of using a mobile phone to contact others for people in his constituency.

“Very often, getting a mobile signal requires them to go out of their house and down to the bottom of the garden because they will not get a signal inside the house. Doing that in the middle of winter, in the dark in a howling gale—I can tell you because I have done it—is not much fun.”

BT is currently rolling out Digital Voice, its new landline product, to homes across the country and says most customers should not have to pay extra for the modernised service. But if your current landline handset is not compatible, you may have to stump up for a new one.

Whoever your landline provider is, you should expect them to get in touch with you before the change is made. You can also contact them directly if you have any questions, particularly if you currently do not have broadband.

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