UK to axe landline phones in digital shake-up sparking fears for elderly and vulnerable

THE UK is set to axe landline phones in the next few years as part of plans for a digital shake-up, sparking fears for the millions of elderly and vulnerable who are said to rely on the service.

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Millions of Britons face being pushed online as the death knell has been sounded for the traditional landline telephone. According to reports, from 2025, all households and businesses will need the Internet to make calls. The digital shake-up has raised concerns for the elderly and vulnerable who rely on landline phones to communicate.

Around six percent of households – roughly 1.5 million homes – do not have access to the Internet, according to watchdog Ofcom.

Those homeowners may need an engineer to visit their to get them set up and those with older phones could need to buy a new handset.

But experts fear millions more do not have a mobile phone or do not know how to use one properly.

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.

Millions rely on the service to contact loved ones

Millions rely on the service to contact loved ones (Image: GETTY)

Many older people do not own a mobile phone

Many older people do not own a mobile phone (Image: GETTY)

“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.”

Ofcom has stressed that telecoms providers have an obligation to ensure these households have access to the emergency services.

These businesses may need to provide a free mobile phone to customers.

Around two million Britons are believed to have already been switched to an Internet-based phone service.

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Some companies may provide customers with mobiles

Some companies may provide customers with mobiles (Image: GETTY)

Unlike the switch to digital TV in 2012, this change is said to be driven by the telecoms industry and not the Government.

Openreach, which runs the majority of the nation’s wire and cable infrastructure, has been working with businesses for months to ensure they are ready.

They have stressed that protecting vulnerable customers is “an absolute priority”.

And the firm is aiming to install ultra-fast full fibre broadband in 25 million households by the end of 2026, which should provide a more reliable service.

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The plans are part of a digital shake-up

The plans are part of a digital shake-up (Image: GETTY)

Openreach has been working with businesses for months to ensure they are ready.

Openreach has been working with businesses for months to ensure they are ready. (Image: GETTY)

Virgin Media, which owns its own cables, is also working to switch its home phone service to its fibre broadband network by 2025.

But Martyn James, from dispute service Resolver, criticised the “failure to publicise” the switchover decision.

He added: “The telecoms businesses risk causing considerable distress to those many customers who find the online world hard to navigate.”

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