Victory for north-east rural customers as BT pauses Digital Voice

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 Morag Kuc
Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 12:37 pm
North East MP Andrew Bowie has thanked telecoms chiefs for pausing the digital switchover
North East MP Andrew Bowie has thanked telecoms chiefs for pausing the digital switchover

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

At a meeting with the firm on Monday, the West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP received a commitment that the switch will be paused until failsafe measures are in place.

Additionally, the telecoms provider has advised Mr Bowie that they intend to look at further options such as ‘dual network resilience’, a hybrid, cellular and landline Digital Voice phone is in the pipeline and they are also looking at a purely mobile based solution.

They have also reacted positively to Mr Bowie's request for more joined up working, stating that they intend to work with the energy suppliers to give mobile mast coverage prioritisation, ensuring faster reconnection to masts in the event of a cut.

Mr Bowie said: “This is further great news for all those affected by the power cuts and the resulting communication ‘blackout’.

"I’m extremely pleased that BT have taken on my suggestions. Working together, jointly with the power companies to address prioritisation is essential going forward.

“I began dealing with this vital issue within days of the power cuts and I’m delighted to have confirmation that the matters I’ve raised over the past few months are now being fully addressed.

“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.