BT has backtracked on plans to replace landline phones with digital ones following complaints that this would leave the elderly and vulnerable at risk.
Following a reports from the Telegraph which found that BT customers were blocked from calling for help during storms earlier this year, the company has now apologised and said it got it “wrong”.
It comes after the firm announced plans that it would replace all copper landlines for fibre-optic cables by 2025.
Age UK initially raised alarm bells that some customers were unable to call emergency services during storm Eunice because of power cuts, which resulted in internet connection outages and mobile batteries to go flat.
Speaking to the paper in February, charity director Caroline Abrahams said: “The three storms and the huge disruption they caused have served as a reminder of how increasingly dependent we are on all these connections.”
“For an older person, living alone and without any immediate support, there’s nothing more frightening than finding everything you depend on for contact with the outside world has ceased to work, with no indication of when normal service will be restored”, she added.
BT’s chief executive of consumer brands Marc Allera has now said the firm had “underestimated the disruptive impact this upgrade would have”, admitting that the big rollout occurred too early.
“The huge disruption caused by recent Storms Arwen and Eunice brought this into sharper focus, when people – including many of our customers in rural areas – needed to get in touch with loved ones during power outages. We got this part of our programme wrong and for that, we’re sorry”, he said.
The rollout has now been put on hold.