15th December 2023

Fit to Switch – round up of activity

One week on from the Fit to Switch launch event, there has been a lot of activity about the impending switch-off.

There have been a couple of big articles in national media outlining the importance of working together to spread the message.

  • An article from Gamma discussing the need to support SMEs in navigating the switch-off, many of whom have otherwise been kept in the dark about the upcoming transition, which can be seen here.
  • An article highlighting that the lack of communication around the switch-off has caused several issues for the digital transition, including customers with no phone access, telecare alarms made redundant, and numbers changed with no permission, which can be seen here.

These articles highlight why collaboration through Fit to Switch is vital to ensure the public are well-informed and well-prepared for the impending switch-off, and why Government and Ofcom need to step in to help raise awareness.

A Parliamentary debate also took place this week, led by Alistair Carmichael MP, on the withdrawal of copper wire telecommunication networks. Data and Digital Infrastructure Minister John Whittingdale closed the debate and said that:

  • The PSTN is out of date and is not longer right for the UK’s needs and is hard to maintain.
  • Government, regulator, and industry must work together to make the move over a success.
  • The process was “decided and initiated by the telecoms industry. The Government did not ask it to do so, nor have they determined the timelines or parameters for the switch-off”. The Government and Ofcom are, however, “monitoring” the process.
  • The Government has a “particular interest” in vulnerable people, and the Government has “become aware of serious incidents of telecare users finding that their devices have failed when trying to activate them”. The Government has asked forced migrations to be paused, and is asking companies to better protect the vulnerable.
  • Network security and resilience is key, and both telecommunications companies and energy companies have a duty to support the vulnerable.
  • Government is asking Ofcom to review whether the 1-hour backup requirement is enough.

Seven MPs and Shadow Digital Minister Chris Bryant took part in the debate, with their points covering rural areas being hit in particular, vulnerable people being at risk, telecoms industry not doing enough, mobile coverage lacking to compensate, and the need for Government and Ofcom to be more involved.

Comms Council UK engaged with Alistair Carmichael in advance of the debate, and we will reach out to him and other MPs involved in the debate in the new year.

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