Victory for rural Yorkshire as BT makes u-turn on replacing landlines

BT’s u-turn on replacing landlines after fears it could leave vulnerable customers stranded without a signal has been hailed as a victory by a Yorkshire campaigner.

The telecoms giant announced earlier this week that it was rolling back on plans to replace the entire copper network with digital-only lines connected to home routers.

The proposed change would cause significant issues for those without the internet prompting fears that people would struggle to make 999 calls in emergencies.

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With an estimated 10.1 per cent of people across Yorkshire not connected to the internet in their homes, Northallerton man Derek Brown has spent months campaigning both BT and his MP Rishi Sunak to stop the roll-out.

BT has gone back on its plans to scrap landlines from 2025

BT admitted on Wednesday (Mar 30) that “they’d got it wrong by going too early.”

A BT spokesperson said: “Further to recent feedback, we’ve taken the decision to pause the major rollout of our Digital Voice programme.

It’s clear from what some customers are telling us that we underestimated the impact this technology upgrade would have on certain customer groups.

“We got it wrong by going too early, and for this we’re sorry.

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“We’ll aim to restart the programme, once we’re more confident that the right products and solutions are in place that will provide more resilient connectivity.”

Derek Brown, who campaigns with the Alzheimer’s Society, had previously warned that “Somebody, somewhere, is going to finish off in a box over this.”

He had raised to BT that vulnerable people who own devices that automatically call the emergency services if they have fall could find the alarms no longer work under the new system.

All customers were due be moved to the new system by the end of 2025, according to BT’s original plans.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post after the u-turn was announced, Mr Brown, 71, said: “It’s a campaign victory for people with dementia and elderly people.

“But BT still does have to solve the problem of the copper lines being mechanically knackered.

“Even with the copper lines, when you had all the hurricanes, people were still losing signal because of their transmitters being down.

“I’ve raised it with Rishi Sunak and banged the drum.”

Mark Tufnell, President of the Country Land and Business Association, which supports rural homeowners, said: “We are pleased that BT has listened to our calls to scrap plans to remove traditional landlines from homes and businesses.

“With many areas still struggling to receive basic mobile and internet connectivity, landlines continue to be a lifeline for many people in isolated communities.

“The answer to this is simple. If BT wants to scrap landlines in the long term, it needs to ensure every single part of the country is fully connected. Sadly, this aspiration feels a long way away for many rural communities.”