RSN speaks out for rural landline customers as switch to digital phones continues roll out

BT has announced the next phase in the rollout of its new home phone service, Digital Voice.  The programme is a move from analogue to digital landlines, which will see calls being made over a broadband line instead. 

Following pilots in Salisbury (Wiltshire) and Mildenhall (Suffolk), BT started work over the summer on rolling the programme out in the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber and Northern Ireland.  The company has now announced the remaining regions and nations set to make the switch over the next year:

  • Autumn 2023
    • North West
    • London
  • Spring 2024
    • West Midlands
    • South East
    • Wales
    • East Anglia
  • Summer 2024
    • North East
    • Scotland
    • South West

BT says Digital Voice will have no impact on how customers use their home phone and will not cost any more than people pay today.  However, with the current state of the connectivity and mobile coverage in rural areas and following the report from Age UK on connectivity in the older generations, the RSN has been working with BT to ensure rural communities aren’t left behind in the switch over.  As part of this, BT has said it won’t be proactively switching anyone who they know:

  • has a healthcare pendant
  • only use landlines
  • has no mobile signal
  • has disclosed any additional needs.

Lucy Baker MBE, the All-IP Director for BT Consumer, recently spoke at the RSN’s National Rural Conference 2023 about the switch over and answered questions from delegates.

Lucy said:

“Through the work with our Digital Voice Advisory Group and our regional engagement, we’ve held 40 events, placed local radio and newspaper ads and met over 4,000 customers in person.

“We understand that any change can be unsettling, and we’re here to support our customers every step of the way. First-hand experience shows that once people have the facts and have spoken to one of our advisors, they feel confident to make the switch.

“If we’ve not been in touch or visited your area yet, don’t worry. We’ll be in touch when it’s time to switch. For anyone who has any issues, questions or concerns, then I’d encourage them to get in touch and let us know.”

RSN Chief Executive, Kerry Booth sits on the Digital Voice Advisory Group.  She said she will continue to ensure rural communities get the service they need:

“We know that some parts of rural England don’t get mobile coverage, so people rely on their landlines.  If the worst should happen during a power cut, these communities wouldn’t be able to call for help from the emergency services. 

“Thankfully, RSN has been working with BT to mitigate these situations.  We will continue to campaign to ensure rural areas are not financially discriminated against due to a failure from central government to ensure they have access to reliable connectivity.”


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