Digital switchover has been paused say BT

North East MP Andrew Bowie has thanked telecoms chiefs for pausing a digital switchover that threatened to leave rural homes at risk of blackouts.

By John A. MacInnes
Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 12:32 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 12:34 pm
Andrew Bowie visited SSEN engineers following Storm Arwen
Andrew Bowie visited SSEN engineers following Storm Arwen

Early adopters to BT’s new Digital Voice service lost their power and phone access for two weeks after Storm Arwen in November.

Large parts of rural Scotland saw electricity connections knocked out by the storm on November 25, with Digital Voice customers in the North East waiting up to two weeks to be reconnected.At a meeting with the firm both Alex Towers (Director of Policy and Public Affairs) and Chris Howe (Change Director, Customer Care) attended to hear and discuss the MP’s concerns for rural customers across Aberdeenshire.

The West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP received a commitment that the switch will be paused until failsafe measures are in place.Mr Bowie commented: “This is a victory for the vulnerable. Those who were most affected by the communication blackout will be delighted to hear that their message has been received and that improvements are going to be made.“Pausing the rollout is the right thing to do until all the issues that Storm Arwen brought to our attention are resolved.“It is vital that elderly and vulnerable residents have the confidence and assurance that they will not be cut off like this again, and that BT and others will be far more responsive in future.”

Digital Voice will replace ageing analogue landlines by 2025 but needs both broadband and power to work.BT will now pause the rollout of Digital Voice while they review the resilience of mobile masts and install additional backup generators.They have also stated that while they have previously been unable to get a stock of battery packs, they are now moving to multiple suppliers to ensure improved availability, and will be looking at enhancing backup solutions, and longer lasting battery packs.Crucially, representatives from BT admitted that “communication has not been right in a number of circumstances”, and that they need to be "much more responsive to elderly groups."

They will now be working to make improvements.