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Major upgrade by BT may affect North Wales households

written by Bella Palmer
british-telecom

Thousands of customers will be pushed online for the first time or forced to rely on a mobile phone instead

Elderly people could be left with no communication during power cuts after a major phone upgrade by British Telecom (BT) which will lead to all calls being made over the internet by 2025.

Thousands of customers will be pushed online for the first time or forced to rely on a mobile phone instead.

The upgrade also removes the ability to make landline calls during a power cut which the National Grid has warned could happen more often as a result of increased demand.

It will also impact other services that rely on the existing telephone network such as medical alarm systems, phones in lifts, payment terminals and red telephone boxes.

But experts have raised concerns that millions of older and vulnerable households who are not online, do not have a mobile phone or live in a rural area with poor connectivity are at risk of being left behind.

Around two million homes across Britain do not have access to the internet while another half a million households do not own a mobile phone.

Caroline Abrahams, director of Age UK, said: Given that about half of older people over the age of 75 are not online, this could be a particular problem for our oldest citizens.

She said: Given the threat of fraud, telecom providers also need to take steps to prevent anyone who is in particularly vulnerable circumstances from becoming victims of digital scams.

BT said half a million customers now have its Digital Voice service and Openreach, which runs the majority of Britain's wire and cable infrastructure, has been working with businesses for months to ensure they are ready.

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