In late March of this year, BT announced the pause of their Digital Voice plans for consumers, claiming to be working on a ‘more resilient’ rollout. They stated they had misunderstood the disruptive nature of this, and not considered the impact on customers who may rely on landline services.
Since then, BT have worked on a more resilient technology, upgrading and altering their own lines to prevent the issues they faced months before, such as the power cuts throughout the Storms Arwen and Eunice, apologizing for their mistake in cutting customers off from contacting family or emergency services.
Despite this apology, and their promises of revision on their technology, the general public continues to hold very mixed opinions on BT’s Digital Voice rollout. One concern made by charities and the public alike is that the change may leave more vulnerable customers- such as elderly people- at risk of being isolated. For many elderly people, landline phones can be their only connection to family at times, and with the previous mistakes that truly did leave thousands of customers unable to even contact emergency services during storms, it’s a valid concern.
In an attempt to put these concerns to rest, BT have stated in their report that they will not be ‘proactively switching’ customers within certain categories. This includes those over 70, customers with healthcare pendants or customers who only use landlines. They state that they will be holding off on upgrading the telephones of people within this category, and that work is continuing with stakeholder groups to develop new solutions to issues previously faced with the Digital Voice rollout.
It’s clear that despite BT’s attempts to defuse the controversy, there is still a very mixed opinion on the Digital Voice plan. It’s not a surprising outcome, considering the 6 million estimated households that will need to either get a broadband connection or pay for a mobile phone.
BT’s switch is planned to be region-based, with the East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside, as well as Northern Ireland being the first to receive the ‘encouragement’ to switch to Digital Voice, but leaving the option open to any customers that opt for the upgrade themselves.
For those receiving the upgrade as part of the rollout, there will be a 4-week notice for households to make the switch. The switch itself entails, for most, simply connecting a landline phone to a BT broadband router.
Overall, the Digital Voice switch- while a necessary change, is one that will no doubt be met with controversy no matter the lengths BT choose to try and defuse concerns. Despite this, the lengths that have been taken will make the rollout a much smoother process for consumers, and one that will hopefully be without much issue.