Silver Voices; campaign to delay the switch over of traditional copper wire landlines to internet -based telephone systems

2nd January 2024

Silver Voices latest campaign is gathering pace

‘Our campaign to delay the switch over of traditional copper wire landlines to internet -based telephone systems (VoIP or Digital Voice) is fast gathering pace. Just before Christmas it emerged that Michelle Donelan, the Technology Secretary, had ordered the telecom companies to protect vulnerable customers in the switch over, particularly those with telecare alarm systems linked to their landlines, as a result of some “serious incidents” involving telecare devices failing. Burglar alarms may also fail. It was said that both BT and Virgin Media O2 had paused the roll-out of their digital phone lines in response, although it is not clear whether this pause relates only to known telecare users. Communication is at the root of this problem as the telecom companies do not have comprehensive lists of vulnerable customers or those using alarm systems and they do not ask vulnerable people to identify themselves, resulting in many older people finding their landlines switched off with little notice and no permissions granted.’

‘Of course, the problems with VoIP run far deeper than telecare devices. Internet systems are not as consistent and reliable as traditional landlines and will fail whenever there is a power cut or an internet outage. Battery back-up systems are generally short-lived. Some telecom companies advise that they can provide hybrid phones which switch automatically to a mobile signal, but these are still in a prototype stage, and they are useless where mobile signals are weak or non-existent. Future increases in costs for VoIP once the mass transfer has been achieved are bound to be exploited by the companies. Many promises to protect vulnerable customers have already been made, and broken, by the telecom giants. Virgin Media O2 has even had the audacity to blame local authorities and care companies for the telecare problems experienced to date.’

‘So, if you do not want to lose your landline in the near future, you need to exploit the promises made about protecting vulnerable customers and take the initiative by writing NOW to your telecom provider:

Stating your age and address (and any medical conditions/ disabilities)

That you consider yourself a vulnerable customer

That you either use an alarm system linked to your landline, or you may need one in the near future

That you must have a facility to make emergency calls in the event of a power cut, or internet outage, as you are a vulnerable customer

Finally, make it very clear that you are withholding your permission to have your landline cut off, until you can be provided with an alternative system which is just as reliable, at no extra cost, as your personal safety is being threatened’

Government Petition

‘To build extra pressure on politicians to take this issue seriously, we have created a petition (supported by the Digital Poverty Alliance) on the official Government website, to delay the switchover to VoIP for at least five years, and to ditch the current deadline of 2025. It is notoriously difficult to build up signatures on this website as there is no facility to share and promote, once you sign. So, the best way to share with your family and friends is to send the link below by email, as widely as possible.’

Please sign and share on this link:


‘There is still time to register for the free webinar (online discussion via Zoom) on this issue. The Silver Voices Director is speaking at the webinar (organised with the Digital Poverty Alliance and Disability Rights UK) on 12 January at 1pm. You can register to attend this webinar on the following link, to learn more about the Digital Voice campaign and our concerns about the project. If you register, you will also be sent a recording of the event afterwards.’

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